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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 137-141

Problematic internet use and its association with anxiety among undergraduate students


1 Department of Psychiatric Social Work, Central India Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Central India Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, India
3 Department of Psychiatric Social Work, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Medical Sciences and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi, India
4 Department of Psychiatric Social Work, LGB Regional Institute of Mental Health, Tezpur, Assam, India

Date of Submission29-May-2021
Date of Decision24-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance04-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication29-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Lokesh Kumar Ranjan
Department of Psychiatric Social Worker, Central India Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Dewada Chowk, Kopedih Road, Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/shb.shb_30_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: The Internet has become an essential part of our daily life, especially the lives of adolescents and youth. With the growth of Internet users, there is also a growing concern about whether the use of the Internet is excessive and if so, whether it amounts to addiction or not. The present study aimed to find the Internet addiction and anxiety effects among undergraduate students. Methods: It was a cross-sectional study conducted among undergraduate students of Bhilai Institute of Technology, Durg and Yugantar Institute of Technology and Management, Rajnandgoan, Chhattisgarh selected using purposive sampling. The total enumeration method was obtained to select students. A total of 854 students were selected for the study. Students were assessed with sociodemographic datasheet, The Internet addiction test, and Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale. Results: About 4.3% of the undergraduate students reported severe Internet addiction, 7.7% had moderate-to-severe level of anxiety. Internet addiction was found to have significant positive correlation with overall anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety symptoms. In regression analysis, anxiety contributes significantly to the prediction of Internet addiction among undergraduate students. Conclusion: Students are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression may have a tendency to use the Internet excessively to relieve low mood, insomnia, fearfulness, feelings of guilt, and hopelessness.

Keywords: Anxiety, Internet addiction, Internet use, somatic anxiety, undergraduate students


How to cite this article:
Ranjan LK, Gupta PR, Srivastava M, Gujar NM. Problematic internet use and its association with anxiety among undergraduate students. Asian J Soc Health Behav 2021;4:137-41

How to cite this URL:
Ranjan LK, Gupta PR, Srivastava M, Gujar NM. Problematic internet use and its association with anxiety among undergraduate students. Asian J Soc Health Behav [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 24];4:137-41. Available from: http://www.healthandbehavior.com/text.asp?2021/4/4/137/326954




  Introduction Top


The internet is becoming one of the most important influences in our everyday life. It has become readily available to individuals across all socioeconomic groups. This has led to the emergence of a relatively new and worrisome phenomenon called “Internet addiction,” which is increasingly affecting adolescents and young adults. Young has described Internet addiction as an impulse-control dis order such as pathological disorders which do not involve an intoxicant.[1] Internet use has led to various psychological symptoms such as social isolation, stress, anxiety, and depression.[2] Nowadays, the Internet has become the main source for shopping, education, entertainment, social networking, and information sharing.[3]

There has been a massive growth of Internet users not only in India but also worldwide. It plays a crucial role in the daily lives of approximately 40% of the world's population. Of those, 48.4% were reported from the Asian region.[4] India has the second-largest Internet users (560 million) in the world, only behind China. It was estimated that by 2023 Internet users would increase to 650 million Internet users in the country.[5] The prevalence of Internet addiction was estimated in the range of 11.8%–58.8% in India.[6],[7] In addition, various mental health comorbidities have also been reported among individuals with Internet addictions such as insomnia, depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety disorders.[8]

The consequence of internet addiction on the physiological and psychological health of individuals is very alarming. A study done in the past has also shown that problematic internet use has been associated with stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, lower self-esteem and life satisfaction, sensation seeking, poor mental health, and low family function.[9],[10] The vast majority of Internet addicts have a history of depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem has also been reported by several researchers earlier.[11] Panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety have widely been studied as comorbid psychiatric conditions in individuals involved with problematic Internet use.[12],[13]

Although several studies have explored and contributed to paranoid ideation, hostility, anxiety, and depression among students with problematic Internet use.[14],[15] The excessive use of the Internet has led to a negative impact on the psychological well-being of the students.[16]

There is a need to explore the role of anxiety symptoms contributing to Internet addiction in undergraduate students. The scientific data can be produced to identify anxiety problems and its association with Internet use among undergraduate students. This study seeks to bridge the gap in research by exploring the problematic Internet use and its association with anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety level among undergraduate students. The present study had the following objectives:

  1. To explore Internet use among undergraduate students
  2. To determine the anxiety symptoms among undergraduate students
  3. To find the relationship between Internet addiction, anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety symptoms among undergraduate students
  4. To assess the predictive role of anxiety on Internet addiction among undergraduate students.


The present study had the following hypothesis

  1. Undergraduate students will not have anxiety symptoms and Internet addiction
  2. Anxiety symptoms will not have an association and predictive role in Internet addiction in undergraduate students.



  Methods Top


The present study was a cross-sectional study conducted among undergraduate students. Two colleges (Bhilai Institute of Technology, Durg and Yugantar Institute of Technology and Management, Rajnandgoan) from Chhattisgarh, India were selected purposefully. A total of 880 undergraduate students from the age range of 17 to 22 years were selected using the total enumeration method. Of which 26 students' responses could not include due to incomplete and poorly marked datasheets. Therefore, the study sample was 854 undergraduate students. We obtained written informed consent from the college authorities (principle of the respective colleges) and undergraduate students to conduct a study. They (college authorities and students) were informed about the purpose and objectives of the study. The assent was taken from the students below 18 years of age. They were informed that the participation in the study was fully voluntary and they can refuse or quit to participate in the study at any point. Those who agreed to participate were selected for the study. The study used self-report measures which were in the English language. We found some of the students find it difficult to understand and comprehend the meaning of the few question. There students were facilitated to complete the assessment. After the assessment, college authorities and students were explained about Internet addiction and anxiety symptoms. They were also given the opportunity to clarify their doubts about Internet addiction and problems associated with it. The participants were assured that their responses would be kept confidential and utilized only for the research purpose.

Measures

Sociodemographic datasheet

The semi-structured sociodemographic datasheet was constructed for the present study to see the demographic profile of the participants such as age, gender, family income, and domicile.

The internet addiction test

The Internet addiction test (IAT) is a 20item questionnaire, was developed to measure addictive use of the Internet. The IAT is a 5point Likert scale, responses range from 0 (not applicable) to 5 (always) about Internet use. It was used as a screening tool to identify the level of Internet addiction. The scoring indicates that the higher the score is the greater the dependence on the Internet. The IAT total score was distributed as: 0–30 as no Internet addiction, 31–49 as mild Internet addiction, 50–79 as moderate Internet addiction, and 80–100 severe Internet addiction. Internal consistency for the IAT using Cronbach's alpha has been reported as 0.889.[17]

Hamilton anxiety rating scale

It consists of 14 items, each defined by a series of symptoms, and measures both psychic anxiety (mental agitation and psychological distress) and somatic anxiety (physical complaints related to anxiety). Each item is scored on a scale of 0 (not present) to 4 (severe), with a total score range of 0–56, where a score <17 indicates mild anxiety, 18–24 mild to moderate anxiety, and 25–30 moderate to severe anxiety. Internal consistency using Cronbach's alpha has been reported 0.77–0.92.[18] The participants are asked to choose the response which suits their feeling after Internet usage.

Ethical consideration

This study was approved by the Ethics Research Committee of Central India Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Chhattisgarh, India (Ref. No. CIIMHANS/ERC/2019/73).

Statistical analysis

The statistical analysis was done using IBM Statistical Packages for the Social Science (SPSS) software package for Windows, Version 25.0. Armonk, NY, United States: IBM Corp. For sociodemographic variables, descriptive statistics were used such as frequency, percentage, mean, and standard deviation (SD). Correlation and regression were used for the association between variables. The significance level of P < 0.05 was set at the outset of the study.


  Results Top


Sociodemographic profile

[Table 1] reveals the mean age of the students was 17.96 (SD = 0.75, age range between 17 and 20 years). Maximum (67.2%) of the students were male, more than half (57.6%) belonged to urban areas and the majority (74.7%) of the students belonged to a higher class family income.
Table 1: Sociodemographic profile of the undergraduate students (n=854)

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Prevalence of Internet addiction pattern

[Table 2] reveals among the 854 undergraduate students, 20.5% reported no Internet addiction, 56.9% had mild Internet addiction, 18.3% moderate Internet addiction, and 4.3% had severe Internet addiction.
Table 2: Prevalence of internet addiction pattern among undergraduate students

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Prevalence of anxiety symptoms

[Table 3] found that 14.2% of undergraduate students had mild anxiety, 13.1% mild to moderate anxiety, and 7.7% reported moderate-to-severe level of anxiety.
Table 3: Prevalence of anxiety among undergraduate students

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Distribution of psychic anxiety and somatic anxiety symptoms

[Table 4] shows that in the psychic anxiety symptoms the majority of the undergraduate students reported high score in the domain tension (18.5%) followed by intellectual deterioration (14.8%) anxious mood (14.3%), fear (11.7%), insomnia (10.3%), and depressed mood (9.4%). Whereas, in the somatic anxiety symptoms the high score was in the domain of somatic sensory symptoms (7.7%) followed by autonomic symptoms (7.5%), somatic muscular symptoms (6.6%), 5.9% reflected the anxiety status at the time of the interview, 4.9% of the students had gastrointestinal symptoms, 4.0% of the students had suffered cardiovascular symptoms, 3.7% of the students had experienced respiratory symptoms, and 3.5% of the students had experienced genitor urinary symptoms.
Table 4: Distribution of psychic anxiety and somatic anxiety symptoms experienced by the undergraduate students

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Correlation between Internet addiction and anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety symptoms

[Table 5] reveals that the Internet addiction showed significant positive correlation with total anxiety score (r = 0.646, P = 0.001), psychic anxiety (r = 0.533, P = 0.001), and somatic anxiety (r = 0.556, P = 0.001) symptoms among undergraduate students.
Table 5: Correlation between Internet addiction, anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety symptoms among undergraduate students

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Regression with Internet addiction

[Table 6] shows that anxiety contributes significantly to the prediction of Internet addiction among undergraduate students (F [3,846) =204.513, P = 0.000). Overall, anxiety contributed to 42% of Internet addiction and the remaining 58% were attributed to the variable which was not included in the study. On the whole, anxiety strongly contributes to the variance on Internet addiction (Beta = 0.836, t = 6.697, and P = 0.000). Psychic anxiety and somatic anxiety did not contributed statistically to the overall Internet addiction among undergraduate students (beta = −0.115, t = −1.552, and P = 0.121), (Beta = −0.107, t = −1.352, and P = 0.177).
Table 6: Linear regression model with Internet addiction as dependent variable and anxiety, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety as independent

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  Discussion Top


The present study reported 4.3% of the participants with severe Internet addiction. Past studies supported similar findings like according to Kandasamy et al.[19] Six percent of the students were Internet addicts and 20% were the possibility of addicts. Similar findings were also reported by Bhatia et al.[20] In their study, the prevalence of moderate Internet addiction was found to be 24% and 6% of them were of severe Internet addiction. Furthermore, Gupta et al.[21] revealed that around one-fourth of the study participants were addicted to the Internet. A study was done by Younes et al.[12] reported the Internet addiction prevalence rate of about 16.8%.

In the present study, 7.7% of undergraduate students reported moderate-to-severe level of anxiety. Most of them reported high psychic anxiety symptoms such as tension, anxious mood, and intellectual deterioration. In support to the present findings, Kandasamy et al.[19] found that the Internet addicts had high symptoms of anxious mood, fear, and tension. Goel et al.[22] reported the Internet-addicted students to experience anxiety and depression symptoms in their day-to-day life. The study done by Kawabe et al.[23] also reported that anxiety to be associated with the risk of problematic internet use among students.

The present study found that Internet addiction had significant positive correlation with total anxiety, psychic, and somatic anxiety symptoms among undergraduate students. Some studies done in past have also suggested similar findings. Akin and Iskender[24] found that internet addiction was linked positively to anxiety and stress among university students. Younes et al.[12] reported the strong significant correlations between internet addiction and insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression. Study done by Saikia et al.[25] also reported a significant correlation between Internet addiction and anxiety among students. Another study done by Odacı and Kalkan[26] also shows the positive correlation between Internet addiction and loneliness, communication, anxiety, unpopularity anxiety, and physiological symptoms.

The result of the present study shows that overall anxiety contributes significantly to the prediction of internet addiction among undergraduate students. Some similar finding was found in other studies as well. Singh et al.[27] found that internet addiction contributes significantly to the prediction of social anxiety, social support, and loneliness among college students. Another study done by Jaiswal et al.[28] also reported that social anxiety contributes significantly to the prediction of internet addiction. In our study, most of the participants were the 1st-year student therefore the results could be understood as they might experience the anxiety symptoms as they were new in the college setting. Internet addiction can be understood as the participants tend to use the internet to overcome anxiety symptoms.

Limitations

The undergraduate students were selected only from two institutes, and therefore the results cannot be generalized to all institutes of the Indian students. Hamilton anxiety rating scale was the only screening tool. Further assessment can be done to identify the impact of Internet addiction on the mental health and well-being of the students. The other psychosocial factors such as stress, body image, content searched, and family factors can be assessed in future studies.

Implications

Our study is helpful to know that undergraduate students are experiencing Internet addiction and anxiety. This can be used to understand the problems associated with anxiety symptoms in college students. The findings can be helpful to work on the anxieties of the students to prevent excessive Internet use. The integrative programs can be formulated to provide interventions at group settings at the college level to orient students about problems such as anxiety and Internet addiction.


  Conclusion Top


The present brought some potential findings which suggest that an Internet addiction and anxiety symptom among undergraduate students is high. Anxiety symptoms were found to be associated with increased Internet addiction that the anxiety contributes significantly to the prediction of Internet addiction among undergraduate students. The study suggests that there is a need for an hour to formulate preventive intervention programs to reduce Internet addiction and impart the right use of Internet among undergraduate students.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]



 

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