Characterizing problematic internet use in a sample of heavy drinking emerging adults. Academic Article uri icon

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  • Objective

    Problematic internet use (PIU) is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled internet use resulting in impairment or distress. PIU is most prevalent during emerging adulthood, a period marked by an increase in psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorders (SUDs). In a sample of high-risk emerging adults, the aim of this study was to examine the relationship between PIU and quality of life (QoL), psychiatric disorders, and impulsivity.


    Participants were a community sample of heavy drinking emerging adults in Hamilton, Ontario (N = 709). Measures included: PIU, QoL, eight psychiatric indicators, and three domains of impulsivity. All variables that were significantly associated with PIU were subsequently examined concurrently in structural equation models.


    PIU was negatively associated with physical QoL (β = -0.27, p < .01) and social QoL (β = -0.20, p < .01), but positively associated with environmental QoL (β = 0.17, p < .01). For psychiatric conditions, PIU was positively associated with internalizing disorders (β = 0.42, p < .01) but not SUD (β = -0.01, p = .90). For impulsivity, PIU was positively associated with Lack of Perseverance (β = 0.16, p < .01) and Negative Urgency (β = 0.23, p < .01) but no other indicators.


    This study provides further evidence that PIU is associated with lower quality of life, selectively co-occurs with internalizing psychopathology, and is associated with certain impulsive traits. Lack of associations with SUD challenges conceptualizations of PIU as an alternative manifestation of externalizing psychopathology. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

publication date

  • June 2022