Incidence and Correlates of Pathological Internet Use Among College Students

Document Type



Published by Elsevier in Computers in Human Behavior, volume 16, Issue 1, Pages 13-29.

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Publication Source

Computers in Human Behavior


This study surveyed 277 undergraduate Internet users, a population considered to be high risk for pathological Internet use (PIU), to assess incidence of PIU as well as characteristics of the Internet and of users associated with PIU. Pathological use was determined by responses to 13 questions which assessed evidence that Internet use was causing academic, work or interpersonal problems, distress, tolerance symptoms, and mood-altering use of the Internet. Approximately one-quarter of students (27.2%) reported no symptoms (NO) while 64.7% reported one to three symptoms (Limited Symptoms) and 8.1% reported four or more symptoms (PIU). Based on popular stereotypes as well as previous research, it was predicted that pathological Internet users would more likely be males, technologically sophisticated, use real-time interactive activities such as online games and chat lines, and feel comfortable and competent online. Further, it was hypothesized that pathological users would be more likely to be lonely and to be socially disinhibited online. Partial confirmation of this model was obtained. Pathological users were more likely to be males and to use online games as well as technologically sophisticated sites, but there was no difference in Internet Relay Chat use. Although reported comfort and competence with the Internet was in the expected direction, differences were not significant. Pathological users scored significantly higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, and were socially disinhibited online.