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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011 May;14(5):291-6. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0199. Epub 2010 Nov 10.

Regular and problematic leisure-time Internet use in the community: results from a German population-based survey.

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Ambulanz für Spielsucht, Klinik für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie, Universitätsmedizin Mainz, Untere Zahlbacher Strasse 8, Mainz, Germany.


In our study, we attempted to identify systematically the use of Internet applications in the German population in order to derive risk factors for problematic use. In a representative survey of the German population, we queried 1,401 women and 1,111 men between the ages of 14 and 94 years by specific questions and standardized questionnaires on depression, anxiety (HADS), and depersonalization (CDS-2). The majority of the German population (55%) used the Internet in their leisure time. Users were younger and had a higher socioeconomic status (education, employment, income). Leisure-time use included e-mail and information search, as well as shopping. Chatting, online communities, games and sex were domains of young, mostly male adults. Overall, 9.3% reported at least one negative consequence of Internet use, especially neglect of recreational activities and problems with family/partner, work or education, and health. Problematic use was associated with longer average daily online times, avoidance of negative emotions, preference for certain applications (gaming, gambling, online sex) and an increased rate of depersonalization. The extent of Internet use per se is not sufficient as an addiction criterion and other negative consequences; rather, specific adverse consequences need to be identified. If the Internet is used excessively to cope with negative affect states and alternative means of coping (e.g., social support, health-promoting behavior) are diminished, a vicious cycle may ensue with increasing stress and reliance on the reinforcing properties of certain online activities that may finally lead to addictive behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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