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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Problematic Internet use in Chinese adolescents and its relation to psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction

Hui Cao12, Ying Sun12, Yuhui Wan3, Jiahu Hao12 and Fangbiao Tao12*

Author Affiliations

1 Anhui Provincial Key Laboratory of Population Health & Aristogenics, Anhui, China

2 Department of Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health, School of Public Health, Anhui Medical University, NO. 81 Mei Shan Road, Hefei 230032, Anhui, China

3 Department of General Medicine, School of Public Health, Anhui Medical University, 81 Mei Shan Road, Hefei 230032, Anhui, China

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:802  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-802

Published: 14 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Problematic Internet use (PIU) is a growing problem in Chinese adolescents. Little is known about associations of PIU with physical and psychological health. This study was designed to investigate the prevalence of PIU and to test the relationships between PIU and psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction among adolescents in mainland China.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey was conducted comprising a large representative sample of 17 599 students in eight cities of China. PIU was assessed by the 20-item Young Internet Addiction Test (YIAT). The Multidimensional Sub-health Questionnaire of Adolescents and the Multidimensional Students' Life Satisfaction Scale were administered to obtain information on psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction. Demographics and Internet usage patterns were also collected. Logistic regression was used to assess the effects of PIU on psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction.

Results

Approximately 8.1% of subjects showed PIU. Adolescents with PIU were associated with males, high school students, urban, eastern and western areas, upper self-report family economy, service type mostly used for entertainment and relieving loneliness and more frequency of Internet use. Compared with normal Internet users, adolescents with PIU were more likely to suffer from psychosomatic symptoms (P < 0.001), including lack of physical energy (P < 0.001), physiological dysfunction (P < 0.001), weakened immunity (P < 0.001), emotional symptoms (P < 0.001), behavioural symptoms (P < 0.001) and social adaptation problems (P < 0.001). Adolescents with PIU had lower scores on total and all dimensions of life satisfaction (all P < 0.001). Adjusted for the demographic and Internet-related factors, there was positive significant relationship between PIU and psychosomatic symptoms, but negatively related to life satisfaction.

Conclusions

PIU is common among Chinese students, and PIU was significantly associated with psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction. Effective measures are needed to prevent the spread of this problem and interventions to prevent the effects of PIU on psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction should be conducted as early as possible.