Study reveals internet addiction risk

Study reveals internet addiction risk

Worrying: Four percent of 14- to 16-year-olds are dependent on the Internet

A study on the subject of internet addiction, commissioned by the German government, reveals worrying figures. In the 14- to 16-year-old age group alone, four percent are affected. The main risk groups include above all men, the unemployed, migrants and single people. The federal government's drug commissioner, Mechthild Dyckmans (FDP), presented the results of the study in Berlin on Tuesday.

One percent of Germans suffer from internet addiction According to a study that was commissioned by the universities of Lübeck and Greifswald on behalf of the federal government, one percent of Germans, 560,000 people between the ages of 14 and 64, are dependent on the internet. Another 2.5 million Germans are also at risk because they use the Internet for hours and disproportionately. “The Internet has many advantages and is an integral part of our lives. But it also harbors risks for people of all ages. They are losing control, fleeing into a virtual world and neglecting their social life, ”reported Mechthild Dyckmans, the federal government's drug commissioner, on Tuesday when the study was presented. "Young people and adults need to be strengthened in their media literacy so that they use the Internet responsibly," emphasized Dyckmans.

15,000 people were sampled for the nationwide representative survey. It turned out that 1.7 percent of the unemployed over 25 years of age have an internet addiction. It is only 0.6 percent among working peers. According to the study, migrants are also among the main risk groups for internet addiction. They therefore have a significantly higher risk compared to people of German origin.

Young people are particularly at risk for internet addiction According to the study, more than two percent are affected in the 14- to 24-year-old age group. The risk of internet addiction is even higher among 14- to 16-year-olds, four percent of whom are Internet addicted. Experts assume that the numbers will increase in the future, especially among young people. According to the survey, more than three quarters of the adolescents surveyed are mainly on social networks such as Facebook. These figures speak a clear language for the Federal Government's drug commissioner: "It must be prevented that they continue to rise." The behavior of those affected laid the foundations for later behavior in their youth. Internet addiction leads to failure at school in the further course. Added to this is the neglect of real social contacts outside of online platforms. As adults, those affected also face the risk of losing their jobs due to addiction.

Dyckmans therefore calls for better and more targeted information. This also includes better networking of advice centers and more intensive training of employees on site. It was necessary to inform the family and school about preventive measures. "But providers of computer games or social networks are also obliged to live up to their social responsibility by educating their users about the risks," says the drug commissioner.

When young people are addicted to the internet, the family is challenged. "As long as someone can freely reduce excessive internet use, use is problematic," explained Hans-Jürgen Rumpf from the University of Lübeck. However, the transition to addiction is often fluid. Signs of addiction are the exclusive use of the Internet in everyday life and loss of control, but also withdrawal symptoms.

In the federal model project "Escapade" not only the young people but also their families are involved. According to Dyckmans, the results of the project show "that families and especially parents are very important and can influence them successfully so that dependency does not arise at all" In addition, parents would be responsible for “learning and dealing with the Internet in order to be able to realistically assess its chances and dangers.” “Escapade” is primarily about counseling talks, Anne Kreft from the Drug Aid Cologne. Close contact between young people and family is "still the most successful prevention".

First outpatient clinic for internet addiction opened Since the beginning of October, the first outpatient clinic for internet addiction has opened. Patients suffering from symptoms of internet addiction through online games, cybersex or social networks can be treated in the media outpatient clinic at the Bochum Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the LWL University Hospital. The head of the ambulance, Dr. Bert Te Wildt, specialist in psychiatry, psychotherapy and addiction medicine, regrets that so far there are very few facilities like this for internet addicts. Given the steadily growing numbers of those affected, the offer so far that there are also Bochum, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne and Berlin is far from sufficient.

Regular consultation hours take place in the media outpatient clinic. There are also group therapy offers in which those affected learn to live a real, fulfilling life outside the virtual world. As part of the therapy, the appeal of internet addiction is to be erased by deliberately creating situations that provoke addictive behavior. Accompanied by the therapists, those affected learn to control their urge for the Internet until it subsides.

Internet addiction not recognized as behavioral addiction So far, Internet addiction has not been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as behavioral addiction. Since it is difficult to define scientifically, its official recognition as an independent disease in the WHO's worldwide diagnostic classification system remains controversial. "In order for a specific treatment to take place, this question must be clarified by the responsible medical associations," Dyckmans demands. "But that presupposes that the data situation on the spread and symptoms of internet addiction is first improved."

Numerous doctors and therapists have also been pushing for Internet addiction to be recognized as a disease for some time. You see great potential for dependency, especially in computer role-playing games. Thousands of people on online networks take part and can become addicted. That has now been scientifically proven, reports Te Wildt. He assumes that the number of patients will increase significantly in the future. (ag)

Also read:
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Internet addiction: first media outpatient clinic in Bochum
560,000 Germans are addicted to the Internet
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Image: Dieter Schütz /

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