Pavilion Health Today
Supporting healthcare professionals to deliver the best patient care

Internet use only has ‘small’ impact on mental health

The negative psychological effects of internet use and platforms are small at most despite popular assumptions, according to a new study.

The negative psychological effects of internet use and platforms are small at most despite popular assumptions, according to a new study.

The study by the Oxford Internet Institute examined data from two million individuals aged 15 to 89 in 168 countries and looked at their psychological well-being from 2005 to 2022 in relation to country-level internet-use and mobile broadband statistics.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, Oxford Internet Institute and Assistant Professor Matti Vuorre, Tilburg University and Research Associate, Oxford Internet Institute, carried out the study, which shows the last two decades have seen only small and inconsistent changes in global well-being and mental health.

Filtering the results by age group and gender has also not revealed any specific demographic patterns among internet users, including women and young girls. In fact, for the average country, life satisfaction had increased more for females over the period.

Professor Przybylski said: “We looked very hard for a ‘smoking gun’ linking technology and well-being and we didn’t find it. We studied the most extensive data on well-being and internet adoption ever considered, both over time and population demographics. Although we couldn’t address causal effects of internet use, our descriptive results indicated small and inconsistent associations.

“We meticulously tested whether there is anything special in terms of age or gender, but there is no evidence to support popular ideas that certain groups are more at risk.”

Technology companies now need to provide more data on internet use

The researchers say that technology companies now need to provide more data if there is to be conclusive evidence of the impacts of internet use. This is because research on the effects of internet technologies is stalled because the data most urgently needed are collected and held behind closed doors by technology companies and online platforms.

In the study, the researchers contrast two different studies of data on well-being and mental health against the countries’ per capita internet users and mobile broadband subscriptions and use, to see if internet adoption predicts psychological well-being.  In the second study they use data on rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm from 2000-2019 in some 200 countries and analyse their associations with internet adoption.

Wellbeing was assessed using data from face to face and phone surveys by local interviewers in the respondents’ native languages. Mental health was assessed using statistical estimates of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and self-harm in some 200 countries from 2000 to 2019, as estimated by aggregated health data from World Health Organisation member states.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read more ...

Privacy & Cookies Policy