Students face Internet addiction and depression

The number of students addicted to the Internet has already doubled in the first pandemic semester in summer 2020. According to a study by the University of Mainz, 7.8 percent of the study participants showed clear signs of online addiction. A year earlier, only 3.9 percent of students were affected.

The behavioral disorder is often accompanied by depressive symptoms, loneliness, and during the pandemic also by increased anxiety, according to the study, which will soon be published in the journal "Suchttherapie" (Addiction Therapy) and is available to F.A.S.. In doing so, the researchers clearly distinguished Internet addiction as excessive consumption with harmful effects from increased Internet activity without a disturbing character, as was widespread, among other things, due to the conversion of universities to online teaching.

Manfred Beutel, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the University of Mainz, called the result alarming. Looking ahead to the beginning winter semester, he said, "I personally believe that returning to university will not be easy. The affected students have a great need for active support." Beutel anticipates both loss of performance and social difficulties.

The German Student Union is calling for an expansion of its psychosocial counseling services with government funding as a result of the greatly increased psychological stress on students caused by the pandemic. Matthias Anbuhl, Secretary-General of the German Student Union, told the F.A.S.: "The effects of three digital semesters, especially isolation and depressive moods, cannot be remedied with one semester of attendance. We assume that it will take up to four semesters for students to work through the consequences of the pandemic." Until now, the Student Union's counseling centers have been financed largely by student contributions.

According to the German Rectors' Conference, a high proportion of face-to-face courses is planned for the winter semester. Students from the "OnlineLeere" association criticized that, in addition to good reasons such as professors' pre-existing conditions, "banalities such as convenience" also stand in the way. Whether concepts are satisfactory must be seen in individual cases.


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