Hours spent on Internet add to depression, stress

(exerpts from article by Associated Press, August 31, 1998)


PITTSBURGH- The more hours people spend on the Internet, the more depressed, stressed and lonely they feel, according to a groundbreaking study that surprised its authors.

Internet use had the same effect even for people who spent most of their time in such social activities as chat rooms or exchanging e-mail, said the study headed by Robert Kraut, a social psychologist professor at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh.

Sociable users ended up feeling just as isolated as users who spent more time crawling the Web for information, Kraut said yesterday.

One reason for the negative effect may have been that using the Internet left less time for the deeper relationships of friends and family, Kraut suggested.

"People are substituting weaker social ties for stronger ones," he said.  "They're substituting conversations on narrower topics with strangers for conversations with people who are connected to their life."

It was the first study to examine the emotional impact of people's Internet use over time, Kraut said.

Kraut and his colleagues followed 93 Pittsburgh-area families for two years.  The families were given computer, phone lines and use of the Internet for free, in return for agreeing to fill out occasional questionnaires.

...After two years, researchers found they could predict changes in an individual's emotional state according to the number of hours spent on the Internet.

...The study will continue in order to examine the mechanisms that seem to produce the emotional effects and how computer use compares with television use.