Users of social media are more tightly connected to the internet and time spent with others in the real world is decreasing, which is leading to social isolation and mental health problems

In July 2019 researchers from Japan published the results of their study to assess the relationship between internet addiction, smartphone addiction, and the risk of severe social withdrawal in Japanese young adults. It is now seen that problems relating to internet over-usage are becoming more and more serious, with adolescents and youth being particularly attracted to and preoccupied with various online activities. A total of 478 college/university students in Japan were involved in the study. Information to determine the degree of internet addition, smartphone addiction and social isolation was collected via various questionnaires. Results showed that there was a trend for males to favour gaming sites via the internet while females used the internet via their smartphone, mainly for social networking. A comparison between the gamers and social media users revealed that gamers used the internet longer and had significantly higher average internet usage and a greater degree of social isolation. In Japan, Hikikomori is the name given to adolescents and adults who withdraw from society and seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement and in this study, the individuals at high risk for hikikomori had longer internet usage time and higher scores for both internet addition and smartphone addiction. A further analysis revealed that there was a strong relationship between social isolation and internet usage but only a moderately weak association between social isolation and smartphone usage. The researchers concluded by stating that as social media applications are becoming more popular, users are connected more tightly to the internet and their time spent with others in the real world continues to decrease. Males often isolate themselves from the social community in order to engage in online gaming while females use the internet so as to not be excluded from their communications online. Mental health providers should be aware of the seriousness of internet addictions and hikikomori.

Tateno M et al. Internet Addiction, Smartphone Addiction, and Hikikomori Trait in Japanese Young Adult: Social Isolation and Social Network. Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jul 10;10:455

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