People who spend large amounts of time on the Internet are more likely to show signs of depression, according to a new study by psychologists from the University of Leeds.
The study found "striking" evidence that some users have developed a compulsive Internet habit in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.
"The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side," said lead author Dr. Catriona Morrison, from the University of Leeds.
"While many of us use the Internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities."
These "Internet addicts" spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to sever depression than typical users.
"Our research indicates that excessive Internet use is associated with depression, but what we don't know is which comes first - are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?" said Dr. Morrison.
"What is clear, is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the Internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies."
The study included the Internet use and depression levels of 1,319 people aged 16-51, and among them, 1.2 percent were classified as being addicted to the Internet.