Internet addicts as well as abstainers face health risk

Washington: Teenagers who spend much time or the least amount of time on surfing Internet are at increased risk of health problems, including depression, a new study has found.

Past studies have showed heavy Internet use is linked to mental health problems, but this study by researchers at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Switzerland is the first one to suggest that those who use the Internet very less may also face health hazards.

The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, also suggested that adults should accept reasonable amounts of Internet use and find ways to help teens use it appropriately.

Dr Pierre-Andre Michaud, who led the study, said: "Many adults. Tend to demonize the use of Internet. Because they don`t master the Internet as well as their children.

"We should think in the future of improving the way the school and society respond to the challenge of assisting young people in making the best use of Internet."

For their study, Michaud and his colleagues examined data of a 2002 Swiss health survey comprising over 7,000 adolescent students aged between 16 and 20.

The participants -2,205 girls and 3,906 boys -were grouped into four categories: high Internet users using the net for two or more hours a day, regular Internet users who remain online for less than two hours per day, occasional Internet users, or those who used the net once a week or less, and non-Internet users or those who had not been online in the past month.

It was found that high Internet users of both genders had a higher risk of depression than regular Internet users. Boys in the group were also found to be at risk of being obese while girls were lacking enough sleep.

And surprisingly, non-Internet users were found to be at higher risk of high depression scores than regular Internet users. The reason behind this could be that non-Internet users remain disconnected from their peers and thus more prone to depression, Michaud said.

"It`s important during adolescence for most youngsters to feel part of the group, to socialise," Michaud said. "Those who don`t at all maybe feel isolated, and maybe tend to be depressed more easily."

However, the researchers have not examined whether the teenagers used to socialise with their friends or for study purpose.