Does internet addiction increase your risk of suicide?
Internet addiction is still a relatively new and poorly understood condition, but there is growing evidence it could have severe implications for someone’s life – including a higher risk of suicide.
A new review of 23 studies involving more than 270,000 found that internet addiction may be linked to higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts, even after adjusting for factors like depression.
“Since depression has been associated with both suicidal behaviors and internet addiction, the independent association between internet addiction and suicidality remains unclear, although it may be partly mediated by depression,” Ming-Kung Wu, M.D., and colleagues wrote in the latest edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Wu, study co-author Yu-Shian Cheng, M.D., and colleagues say they were motivated to explore the issue because while isolated research has been done in the past, “to our best knowledge, no meta-analysis has investigated the relationship between suicidal behaviors and internet addiction.”
To do such a study, the team collected data from observational studies that examined the link between internet addiction and suicidality, including information about internet gaming disorder, internet use disorder, depression, suicidality, and other related issues.
Ultimately, the researchers found 23 cross-sectional studies involving 270,596 participants, as well as two prospective studies involving 1,180 participants that related to the investigation of suicide and internet addiction.
Based on the findings, the team concluded that participants with internet addiction were notably more likely to have suicidal ideation, plan suicide, and attempt suicide compared to the average population. Additionally, those with internet addiction had more severe suicidal ideation.
The heightened risks remained even after the researchers adjusted for demographic data and depression.
Interestingly, the team observed that those with internet gaming addiction may be at even higher risk for suicide compared to those with general internet addiction, but more research is needed to follow this observation.
“The results of our meta-analysis may provide a direction for further studies to investigate internet addiction and may also provide evidence about the potentially negative effects of internet addiction,” Wu and colleagues wrote. “We also encourage further studies to investigate the difference between suicidal behaviors in those with internet gaming disorder and internet addiction with other types of internet activity. As the evidence in this study was mostly derived from cross-sectional studies, future prospective studies are necessary to confirm our findings.”