While Internet addiction (IA) is not currently recognized in the DSM-5, new research suggests that as many as 6% of individuals worldwide could be suffering from this disorder. 

Neural abnormalities and cognitive dysfunctions associated with IA appear to be similar to those related to substance and behavioral addiction, according to Cecilia Cheng, PhD and Angel Yee-lam Li, BA, both of the University of Hong Kong. It is often comorbid with mental disorders including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression

Data on IA rates from 31 countries in seven regions were reviewed and an overall prevalence rate for IA of 6% was determined, with the highest rates seen in the Middle East (10.9%), North America (8.0%), and Asia (7.1%). IA rates were more likely to be greater in nations with a lower Life Satisfaction Index, higher Pollution Index, higher Traffic Commute Time Index, and lower GDP per capita, Cheng and Li reported in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 

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The results dialed to support the study’s hypothesis that Internet accessibility promoted IA, as IA prevalence was very low in Northern and Western European areas with high Internet penetration rates. 

Although the authors acknowledge that these findings are limited due to a lack of data from African nations, the links between IA and perception of less life satisfaction in general, greater overall pollution (primarily air pollution), greater traffic commute time consumption, and lower national income could have implications for policymakers in reducing environmental stress.


Cheng C and Li AY. Internet Addiction Prevalence and Quality of (Real) Life: A Meta-Analysis of 31 Nations Across Seven World Regions. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2014; 17(12): 755-760

This article originally appeared on MPR

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