"Just one more video!" Sounds familiar? A lot of people lose track of time when they're online.
When Internet activity starts taking a toll on personal commitments and interpersonal relationships, however, the real problem begins. According to a study, six percent of the world's population has this problem.
Published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, the study involved data from over 89,000 individuals from 31 countries. Cecilia Cheng and Angel Yee-lam Li analyzed all the data and, using 164 figures for the prevalence of Internet addiction, estimated that six percent of the Internet users around the world are afflicted. Prevalence varied, though, ranging from just 2.6 percent in Western and Northern Europe to 10.9 percent in the Middle East.
What constitutes Internet addiction, anyway?
It is a problem with controlling impulses, characterized by the inability to curb Internet use, which then results in affecting a person's life. Most of the time, deterioration in health and the quality of relationships characterize an addiction. The same applies to someone who can't stop going online.
This isn't the first time that researchers explored the effects of Internet addiction, but just how prevalent the condition was has never been identified. Cheng and Li's work focuses on the prevalence issue, bringing together data for a more conclusive global estimate. To guide predictions, two overarching hypotheses were formulated: quality of life and accessibility.
The quality of life hypothesis supposes that the prevalence of Internet addiction is connected to the poor living conditions of a user, prompting the use of the Internet as a means of escaping the stresses of real life.
The accessibility hypothesis, on the other hand, operates on Mann's notion that addiction persists due to availability. It is also related to two socioeconomic factors: GDP per capita and the Internet penetration rate. The results of the study failed to support this hypothesis.
Researchers noted that they were not able to work with data from the African region. As such, the results of the study might not apply to countries in the region that have low Internet penetration rates compared to the rest of the globe. While African countries are still in the early stages of Internet development, the region is considered the fastest growing in the world.
The study received support from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council's Seed Funding Program for Basic Research and the General Research Fund.