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Member Research and Reports

Taiwan Researchers Find Internet Addiction Linked to Lower Health-Related Quality of Life among College Students

College years are notorious for co-occurrence of health risk behaviors. Among them, Internet addiction (IA) has increasingly become a significant public health issue, as Internet use has been integrated into college students’ daily lives for learning and social purposes. According to a new study by researchers at National Taiwan University (NTU), IA was negatively related to every aspect of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in college students, and various IA manifestations were differentially related to different domains of HRQOL.

Conducted by Dr. Jiun-Hau Huang, associate professor in the Institute of Health Behaviors and Community Sciences at National Taiwan University College of Public Health, and his graduate student, Mr. Kae-Chyang Chern, this study has been published in the July issue of Computers in Human Behavior.

“While prior research has demonstrated that IA is associated with various negative health consequences, few studies, if any, have focused on examining the overall health impact of IA among college students using the concept of HRQOL, as measured by the World Health Organization (WHO) Quality of Life assessment short version (WHOQOL-BREF), to assess all four domains of health (i.e., physical, psychological, social, and environment) in a holistic approach,” said Dr. Huang, the study’s corresponding and co-first author.

Of the 1,439 surveyed Taiwanese college students, 33.9 percent were classified as having IA according to the Chen Internet Addiction Scale, and these students reported lower HRQOL in all four domains. In multivariate linear regression models, IA was also linked to significantly worsened HRQOL in physical, psychological, social, and environment domains (β = −0.130, −0.147, −0.103, and −0.085, respectively).

Furthermore, 3 IA manifestations, namely compulsivity (β = −0.096), interpersonal and health problems (β = −0.100), and time management problems (β = −0.083), were significantly associated with lower physical HRQOL; compulsivity was also associated with decreased psychological (β = −0.166) and environment (β = −0.088) HRQOL; lastly, interpersonal and health problems owing to Internet use was associated with lower social HRQOL (β = −0.163).

Notably, comorbid with IA, depression was also strongly linked to lower HRQOL, resulting in synergistic harmful effects on HRQOL. As such, multi-component prevention initiatives that tackle IA and depression simultaneously are recommended.

In conclusion, Dr. Huang said, “These findings indicate that IA has detrimental effects on college students’ health in a variety of ways. Illumination of such relationships can enhance our understanding of the added risk and harm of Internet misuse. More research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms through which IA affects HRQOL and to inform future interventions to prevent IA and help ameliorate the negative effects of Internet use.”

[Photo: Dr. Jiun-Hau Huang]