Time spent on Internet linked to stress and suicidal ideation among Korean teenagers

A recent study of Korean high school students revealed the more time students spent on the Internet that was unrelated to school, the more they felt feelings of sadness, stress, and suicidal ideation.

The study was led by Yeunhee Kwak, RN, PhD, of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, and published in PLOS ONE. To study the relationship between mental health and Internet usage, Kwak and her colleagues analyzed 29,811 high school students ages 16 to 18 years old and their responses to the 2018 Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based Survey. Data was also collected on non-academic Internet usage, mental health, and general characteristics of the students.

The study’s results showed that students spent an average of three hours on the Internet outside of school work. The data suggested that students in lower grade levels, female students, students of low economic status, and students with low academic achievement had the highest levels of Internet usage. Even after researchers adjusted results based on demographic characteristics, they found that students with lower Internet usage showed fewer feelings of stress, sadness, and suicidal ideation.

The study was unable to demonstrate a causative link between Internet usage and mental health, however, it did indicate that students who spent more non-academic time on the Internet, had higher rates of stress, sadness, and suicidal ideation. The authors suggested that to manage these teenage mental health issues, more interventions are needed to replace Internet usage with different offscreen activities.