Margarita Slabadienė 1*, Indrė Gadeikytė2, Vesta Steiblienė1,2
1 Psychiatry Clinic, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania,
2 Faculty of Medicine, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania
3 Neurosciences Institute, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania
There are more than 2.6 million internet users in Lithuania. The increased prevalence of daily internet users linked to growing increased amount of the Problematic internet use (PIU). PIU could be defined as “The use of the internet that creates significant psychological, social, behavioral, social and / or work difficulties in a person’s life”. It is known that the individuals with difficulties in daily functioning are linked to alcohol consumption. The harmful alcohol consumption causes approximately 60 different diseases and conditions, including mental and behavioral disorders. However, the associations among PIU, alcohol use and health problems have not been clearly assessed.
Aim: To evaluate the associations among Problematic internet use (PIU), symptoms of general health symptoms and harmful alcohol consumption.
Methods: An anonymous online survey conducted in the fall of 2019 and included 272 individuals, mean age 26.75 (9.32) years old; of these, 45 (16.5%) were men. Study subjects completed the “Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire” (PIUQ-9), which distinguished three subscales: Obsession, Denial, Control Disorder, and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), which allows the identification of harmful alcohol consumption. In addition, disorders of daily functioning in relations with the use of the internet, were assessed. Subjects who reported that the internet use disrupted their daily functioning were rated as the problematic internet users.
Results: Of 272 respondents 39 (14.3%) indicated that the use of the internet disrupted their normal daily functioning and / or relationships with others: they were rated as problematic internet users. Individuals in the problem internet use group had a significantly higher overall PIUQ-9 score (27.1 vs. 17.0, respectively; p <0.001) compared to non-problematic users, as well as significantly higher obsessions (8.4 vs. 4, 8, p <0.001), denial (8.7 vs. 5.9, p <0.001), and loss of control (10.0 vs. 6.3, p <0.001) subscales. In addition, the problematic group of internet users had significantly higher rates of somatic health (11.6 vs. 8.1, p <0.001), depression (12.2 vs. 7.0, p <0.001), and anxiety (7.2 vs. 4.6, p <0.001). Out of 272 respondents, for 43 (15.8%) alcohol consumption was assessed as harmful. Comparing the group of harmful alcohol users with other respondents, no differences in daily functioning caused by the use of the internet were found between the groups. However, in the group of harmful alcohol users, the overall score of the PIUQ-9 scale was significantly higher (21.1 vs. 18.0, p = 0.007), as well as significantly higher in obsessions (6.4 vs. 5.1, p = 0.003) and negation (7.3 vs. 6.1, p = 0.002) scores in the absence of significant differences in control disorder, also in the absence of significant differences in overall health outcomes.
Conclusions: Individuals who have disrupted their normal daily functioning and / or relationships with others may be considered problematic internet users, because of their significantly higher rates of loss of control, denial, and obsession, as well as more severe symptoms of somatic health, depression, and anxiety. Although individuals who considered alcohol use to be harmful did not significantly interfere with their daily functioning, this group had significantly higher rates of Problematic internet use, especially in the subscales of denial and obsession. The study showed associations among harmful alcohol consumption and Problematic internet use, but due to the small sample size, the results are considered as preliminary.
Keywords: Harmful alcohol consumption, Problematic internet use, daily functioning, anxiety, depression.