While many studies have looked at the impact of problematic internet use (PIU) on psychological health, the impact of PIU on a physiological level is been less understood, until now.
In a bid to bridge this gap, the authors of a new study assessed the heart rate and blood pressure of 144 participants, aged 18 to 33 years, before and after a brief internet session. Anxiety and self-reported internet-addiction were also assessed.
Individuals who identified themselves as having PIU displayed an average 3 to 4 per cent increase in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, as well as reduced mood and increased state of anxiety immediately on termination of internet use, compared to before using it. There were no such changes in individuals with no self-reported PIU. These changes were independent of levels of depression and trait anxiety.
Writing in PLoS One , the authors said the changes after cessation of internet use “are similar to those seen in individuals who have ceased using sedative or opiate drugs, and suggest PIU deserves further investigation and serious consideration as a disorder”.
The study is the first controlled-experimental demonstration of physiological changes as a result of internet exposure.