April 18, 2024
New Study Challenges Assumptions About Internet's Negative Impact on Mental Health

New Study Challenges Assumptions About Internet’s Negative Impact on Mental Health

Despite popular assumptions about the negative psychological effects of internet technologies, a major international study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute has found that the links between internet adoption and psychological well-being are small at most. The study examined data from two million individuals aged 15 to 89 in 168 countries and found smaller and less consistent associations than expected if the internet were causing widespread psychological harm. The findings, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, suggest that the last two decades have seen only minimal and inconsistent changes in global well-being and mental health.

The research, conducted by Professor Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institute and Assistant Professor Matti Vuorre from Tilburg University, challenges the notion that the internet is a negative influence on mental health. The study aimed to find a “smoking gun” linking technology and well-being but did not find any definitive evidence.

Furthermore, when the researchers filtered the results by age group and gender, they did not find any specific demographic patterns among internet users. This includes women and young girls, who are often assumed to be more at risk. In fact, for the average country, life satisfaction had increased more for females over the studied period.

The study also suggests that technology companies need to provide more data for conclusive evidence of the impacts of internet use. Currently, the data that is most urgently needed for research on the effects of internet technologies are collected and held behind closed doors by these companies and online platforms. In order to gain a better understanding of the relationship between internet use and mental health, it is crucial to have access to data on individual adoption and engagement with internet-based technologies.

The researchers utilized two different studies to analyze the data. In one, they compared data on well-being and mental health against countries’ per capita internet users and mobile broadband subscriptions. In the second study, they analyzed data on rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm from 2000 to 2019 in approximately 200 countries. The goal was to determine if internet adoption predicts psychological well-being.

The study assessed well-being using data from face-to-face and phone surveys conducted by local interviewers in respondents’ native languages. Mental health was assessed using statistical estimates of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and self-harm in approximately 200 countries, based on aggregated health data from World Health Organization member states.

Overall, this groundbreaking research challenges the common belief that the internet has a significant negative impact on mental health. While the internet may have its drawbacks, the study suggests that its influence on psychological well-being is not as detrimental as previously assumed.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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