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Internet addiction high among undergrads

Kathmandu, March 30, 2017: A significant number of Nepali undergraduate students are found to be suffering from sleeping disorders due to their addiction to internet, according to a recent study.

A research paper published in Biomed Central Psychiatry, an open-access peer reviewed journal, showed that internet addiction and insomnia were prevalent in one-third of the undergraduates.

The study was conducted in  937 students from 20 undergraduate campuses in Kathmandu and seven undergraduate campuses in Chitwan.

According to the study, 35 percent were found to have internet addiction with sleeping disorders including insomnia. Similarly, 21 percent of these students were found to be battling with depression.

The study notes that there is a significant relationship between the internet addiction, insomnia and depression. “Many global studies also point to relationship between internet addiction, insomnia and depression. We wanted to test this in our context,” said Parash Mani Bhandari, the lead author of the study. “The undergraduate students here too were found to be suffering from similar conditions.”

The study titled “Sleep quality, internet addiction and depressive symptoms among undergraduate students in Nepal”, authored by Bhandari, Dipika Neupane, Shristi Rijal, Kiran Thapa, Shiva Raj Mishra and Amod Kumar Poudyal was published in BMC Psychiatry in March.

According to the study, the sleep quality of the students was assessed using Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) which uses a 19-item tool that evaluates sleep quality over a period of one month. Similarly, internet addiction of the undergraduate students was assessed using Young’s 20-item Internet Addiction Test (IAT), and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 was used to assess prevalence of depression. All these tools are globally recognised.

The paper states that since students tend to spend significantly long hours in social media that affects their education while also leading to isolation from social company. The study notes that in the long run, the students “end up losing their real-life social connection, which is a crucial trigger in the development of depressive symptoms.”

“On one hand, poor sleep quality escalates internet addiction while on the other, it controls academic performance. In our study we found that academic performance in previous year was associated with sleep quality, internet addiction and symptoms of depression,” the paper reads. “So, to stem the burden of depression symptoms among undergraduate students, educational institution can play a vital role,” it said.

Experts however warn that the data must be treated with caution.

“The study has identified that people are suffering from depression. Further study must be conducted to assess if the people with depression symptoms actually have depression disorders and need clinical attention,” said Dr Saroj Ojha, head of department of psychiatry department of the Institute of Medicine.

“The study nonetheless provides a platform to policy makers to act on issues of mental health that is often overlooked,” he said.