Posted by: pcordell | November 19, 2012

Anxiety and depression a result of internet use?

In Nicholas Carr’s clarion call about the Internet, he says psychological research has proved that “frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory and make us tense and anxious.” (The Shallows 2011, p. 132) He then points out that we “ask the Internet to keep interrupting us in ever more and different ways.” (Carr, p. 134)

One parallel development during the same time frame as the rise of the Internet has been the rise in antidepressant use in the US.  According to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antidepressant use has soared 400% in the past 20 years:

Eleven percent of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period, the authors write. They add that though the majority of antidepressants were taken to treat depression, the drugs also can be used for anxiety disorders and other conditions.        (

According to a government study, antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. In its study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in visits to doctors and hospitals in 2005. Of those, 118 million were for antidepressants. (

To date, no U.S. study has causally linked anxiety and depression with use of the internet.  Even these articles consider other possibilities for the huge increase in antidepressant use, such as the economy, job loss and pharmaceutical advertising.  However, as emerging data describe increasing pressure from technology, can we make the leap and consider that the internet materially contributes to the problem?


  1. I think it would be really interesting to track social anxiety diagnosis rates over time – we hear so often that as online and email communication becomes more common, face-to-face and even telephone communication can become more intimidating for younger generations. I wonder if social anxiety in particular will increase alongside increased reliance on email, etc.

  2. I found an interesting correlation to your comment when I was doing research for my blog.

    Re: Internet anxiety

    by Hero » Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:35 am
    I think internet anxiety is more common than one would think. I experience what is described here but i always chalked it up to well … having a small internet addiction. So when I couldnt fill certain cravings lol … anxiety. Many thoughts when a website is not working come to mind that would give u anxiety.

    “This was my favorite website, what will i do now.”
    “I dont know any other way to contact the people i talk to on this website”
    “My internet, i hope its not down i have lots of things to do.”
    “Maybe they banned me for something and dont want me to visit the site anymore.”

    The list goes on i guess. You must also remember the internet is a very social place. If u have social anxiety like myself , its very easy to get anxious over things on the internet. I mean ppl get phone anxiety right? why not internet?

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