As much as 0.7% of Germans aged between 25 and 65 are currently considered to be suffering from Internet addiction. A recent study has shown that men, young people, migrants and the unemployed are the groups most at risk.
It has come to light that many Internet users fall into a destructive spiral of visiting chat rooms and late night gambling, often interspersed with compulsive Facebook status updates. As well as computer game addiction, chat rooms and social network sites such as the ubiquitous Facebook can also lead to the development of a clinical addiction.
New analysis of data collected in 2011 shows that males are the group most at risk of this type of addiction and in particular unemployed men with a foreign background. The results of this analysis showed that many of those aged between 25-64 were considered to be Internet addicts and the percentage of male addicts was twice that of the number of women. In addition, the numbers highlighted a tendency for immigrants and the unemployed to be more at risk of addiction, with the statistics for their group standing well above the average at 1.7 percent. Educational background does not seem to play a significant role.
The findings are based on data collected by the 2011 Pinta-Studie. The study gathered data by telephoning 150,000 people and asking them about their typical Internet usage patterns. Those questioned were asked to approximately indicate the extent that they lost sleep due to their Internet habits as well as well as how often they felt they had neglected family and friends due to excessive Internet use.
Although young people were shown to be particularly at risk, the psychologist and Pinta spokesperson Hans-Jürgen from Lübeck said that 'this phenomenon can also be noted in older people'. Although the percentage of Internet dependant adults aged between 45 and 65 is lower than that of other age groups, 0.5 percent is a still a significant percentage and is continuing to grow. Rumpf notes that for older people online games are often the trigger for addiction in comparison to younger users, who according to the seurvey tended to name social networking sites as the cause of their Internet dependence.
Sceptics have argued that it is not yet clear whether excessive Internet use can be named an addiction in its own right. Dependence on the Internet is not yet recognised as an official behavioural addiction and they argue that Internet overuse could stem from other factors, such as depression.