Internet responsible for mental illness of over 85pc students

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Nearly 86 per cent of students who have faced mental illness at least once in a lifetime said internet has contributed to their mental illness in some way or the other, according to a new study.

These findings were revealed by a survey titled “Impact of Internet use on Students’ Mental Health: How much caution is necessary?” conducted by Dhaka-based voluntary organisation Aachol Foundation. The organisation’s Research and Analysis Unit member Farzana Akter unveiled the survey at a virtual press conference on Saturday.

Aachol Foundation conducted the survey on 1,773 students in February-May this year. Of the participants, 49.5 per cent were female, 49.7 per cent male, and 0.8 per cent were third gender. 13.2 per cent of the respondents were 16-19 years, 76.3 per cent 20-25 years, and 10.5 per cent were 26-30 years.

Among the participants, 18.6 per cent were madrasa and English medium students, 64.3 per cent were graduate students, 8.4 per cent were post graduate students, and 8.7 per cent were looking for jobs.

Of the students surveyed, 72.2 per cent said they faced mental problems at least once in a lifetime and 85.9 per cent of the respondents thought internet had a role for it. According to the survey, 26.1 per cent of students said internet is fully responsible and 59.8 per cent said internet is somewhat responsible for mental illness.

Spending time on internet

The survey found 38.2 per cent of the respondents used internet for academic purposes, 42.9 per cent for communication, 67.5 per cent for recreation, 8 per cent for financial transactions, 24.9 per cent for online gaming or watching films and 12.6 per cent of the respondents used it for online shopping.

In terms of time spent online, 32.3 per cent of internet users log in for 2 to 4 hours daily. 5.4 per cent used the internet for no more than an hour, 36.6 per cent for 5 to hours, 19.5 per cent use the internet between eight and ten hours, and 6.2 per cent for eleven hours or more.

Losing concentration in studies

As the use of the internet becomes crucial for education, 94.1 per cent of the respondents, according to the survey, utilised it for academic purposes, and 80.1 per cent had a significant interest in using the internet for academic purposes because of their addiction. Ninety-one per cent of the students felt addiction to internet. Of the respondents, 22.4 per cent were ‘very addicted’, 42.7 per cent were ‘moderately addicted’ and 20.9 per cent were ‘slightly addicted’ to internet.

The survey's findings indicate that 52.6 per cent of students found it difficult to focus when they used the internet while studying. In addition, 25.2 per cent of readers had trouble recalling what they have read, 57 per cent wasted their time, and 31.2 per cent were reluctant to read.

Negative impact on regular life

The study found 34.3 per cent of the respondents felt their everyday lives were affected by internet use negatively while 57.2 per cent said that it had a "slightly negative" impact on everyday living. 59.6 per cent of those who examined the detrimental outcomes believed that their inability to concentrate on their schoolwork was caused by time spent online. 17.8 per cent of people engage in online bullying, betting, cybercrime, and pornography.

The survey also found 23 per cent of respondents gradually became more introverted, 35.6 per cent underwent various forms of stress, including depression, and 20.3 per cent developed social isolation.

Impact on family, social relationships

According to the survey, 3.5 per cent of the respondents never communicated with their relatives while 19.2 per cent did not communicate with their families very often. Not having enough conversations with families creates a distance between the students and their families. However, 44.6 per cent of the students said they communicated with their families often.

The survey found 23.6 per cent of the respondents isolated themselves and made a virtual world. 19.5 per cent has trouble finding people to talk openly. Besides, 9.9 per cent of them have trouble blending in socially, 9 per cent are frequently bothered by others, and 8.7 per cent are concerned with people. On the other hand, 29.3 per cent of the students said their social relationships were not affected by their internet use.

Detrimental effects on personal life

The detrimental effect of internet use is diminishing personal life. According to the survey, 13.1 per cent of the respondents said they became selfish due to use of the internet and 25.7 per cent wasted too much time on the internet for unnecessary use.

Besides, 58.7 per cent of respondents said they didn’t always get enough sleep while 30.4 per cent of students attributed their inability to sleep only to their use of the internet. The students suffered a variety of medical issues as a result of using the internet for extended periods of time, including 53.6 per cent experiencing sleep disturbance, 34.5 per cent experiencing discomfort and dizziness, 19.2 per cent experiencing appetite loss, and 24.3 per cent experiencing eye problems, 27.8 per cent feels haziness and fatigue.

According to the survey, 32.9 per cent of students browse websites with pornographic or sexually explicit content online, according to the survey's findings. 35.1 per cent of the respondents said they had thought about it after seeing porn or other sexually explicit stories, movies, or audios.

A factor analysis found that 28.8 per cent of students watched porn, listened to porn stories, or read porn stories to satiate their sexual curiosity. 14.1 per cent said they do it as a form of recreational food, while 24 per cent claimed it gave them sex gratification. Additionally, poll results showed that 9.6 per cent did so because of despair and 23.5 per cent did so because of loneliness.

Impact of social media

The survey also found use of social media affect mental health. 10.4 per cent of the students are dissatisfied with others' success. Additionally, 10.5 per cent of the respondents said were envious of others' success on social media, while 18.7 per cent feel inferior. However, 34.4 per cent of respondents said they felt motivated by the news.

Changes in behaviour

The use of social media also affects students’ personalities in various ways. According to the survey, 27 per cent of students become impatient, 26 per cent became irate abruptly, 27.7 per cent became silent, 22.5 per cent became inactive, 24.5 per cent form excessive expectations, and 23.6 grew homesickness. However, 30.2 per cent of students reported feeling lonely while they were offline.

Impact of negative news on newsfeed

The survey also highlighted the impact of negative news on social media newsfeeds. 23.7 per cent of the respondents said they were panicked seeing negative news or any bad news on social media every day while 37.8 per cent of students felt depressed and 20.1 per cent felt traumatized.

Aachol Foundation placed a set of recommendations to resolve these problems. These including introducing "Digital Literacy Program" at schools and universities to ensure safe usage of internet; establishing internet rescue camps and offering students counselling, therapy, and educational programmes to help them break addiction; promoting social activities and access to sports and fitness facilities; counselling by socio-cultural and non-profit groups on digital literacy; promoting mental growth and self-awareness through art therapy, clay therapy, and storytelling; ensuring sex education in families, and promoting cybercrime awareness campaigns.

Addressing the event, Kamal Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, a professor of clinical psychology at Dhaka University, prolong mental problem creates mental illness. A big number of students do not use internet in productive ways; the number of playgrounds is on decline and internet has turned to be its alternative. Besides, cultural practices have also declined, he added.

Presided over by Aachol Foundation president Tansen Rose, Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Division programmer Biplob Chandra Sarker and Tangail deputy civil surgeon Maruf Ahmed Khan spoke at the event.