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Internet addiction: prevalence, discriminant validity and correlates among adolescents in Hong Kong

  • King-Wa. Fu (a1), Wincy S. C. Chan (a2), Paul W. C. Wong (a3) and Paul S. F. Yip (a3)
Abstract
Background

Despite increasing concern over the potential adverse effects of excessive internet use, especially in young people, there is some debate over its definition, magnitude and discriminant validity.

Aims

To examine the prevalence of adolescents' internet addiction in Hong Kong, China; to test its differentiation from other correlates; and to examine its relationships with correlates in a representative community sample of adolescents.

Method

A two-wave panel household survey with 208 adolescents (aged 15–19 years) was conducted. Participants were asked to self-report their patterns of internet usage, symptoms of internet addiction, suicidal ideation, psychiatric symptoms and psychosocial conditions during the study period.

Results

The prevalence rate for having five or more symptoms of internet addiction was estimated to be 6.7% (95% CI 3.3–10.2). The discriminatory characteristic of internet addiction was marginally demonstrated. Positive dose–response relationships were found between the number of symptoms of internet addiction and 1-year changes in scores for suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

Evidence supports the specificity of internet addiction and its symptoms seem to co-occur with individuals' suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
King-Wa Fu, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, G24, Eliot Hall, Pokfulam Road, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. Email: kwfu@hku.hk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Internet addiction: prevalence, discriminant validity and correlates among adolescents in Hong Kong

  • King-Wa. Fu (a1), Wincy S. C. Chan (a2), Paul W. C. Wong (a3) and Paul S. F. Yip (a3)
Submit a response

eLetters

Gambling addiction in China: A survey of Chinese psychiatrists

George Sanju, Consultant in addiction psychiatry
07 June 2013

We read with interest the paper (1) on internet addiction published in your journal and we wish to share our findings of a study of another non-substance addiction: gambling addiction. Ours was a survey of psychiatrists in China on their knowledge of and attitudes towards gambling addiction. Gambling, as leisure activity, is common in most cultures and for most it never becomes problematic. However for a minority, approximately 1% (2) of the general population in most Western countries, it develops into gambling addiction. The origins of gambling inChina can be traced to the Xia dynasty (2000 to 1500BC) (3). The Chinese gamble more than most: 2.5 to 4% of Chinese adults are gambling addicts despite most gambling activities, except for state-run lotteries, being banned in mainland China. However illegal gambling is very popular and itis estimated that the size of the illegal gambling industry is at least 10times that of legal gambling (lotteries).

Given the above, we carried out a survey of psychiatrists in China toexplore the following: how often they saw patients with gambling problems,how confident they were in managing these patients, what was their understanding of gambling addiction, and how they saw their perceived roleand feasibility in managing these patients. This, to our knowledge, is thefirst survey of its kind in China.

A questionnaire was sent to 120 psychiatrists working in China and 110 of them responded. Of the 110 psychiatrists, 61 (55.4%) said they had seen gambling addicts in their practice and 50 (45.4%) psychiatrists said they had seen patients who did not meet the threshold for diagnosis but nevertheless had a gambling problem. Only one of the respondents had had any training in the management of gambling addiction. It was encouraging to note that 91 (83%) of psychiatrists saw gambling as a potentially addictive disorder and 98 (89%) saw it as an important public health problem. When asked about the feasibility of 'psychiatrists getting involved in the management of gambling addicts', 22% strongly agreed, 60.9% agreed, 10.9% neither agreed nor disagreed, 5.4% disagreed and 0.9% strongly disagreed.

Although many of the psychiatrists had come across patients with gambling problems, it was shocking that only one of the psychiatrists had had any training in the management of gambling addiction. Nevertheless it was encouraging to note that the majority viewed it as an addictive disorder and saw it as being within their remit.

In our view, there is a great opportunity to introduce programs aimedat increasing the knowledge of psychiatrists in this neglected area of addictions, and thereby improve the treatment provided to gambling addictsin China.

References

1. King-wa Fu, Wincy S. C. Chan, Paul W. C. Wong, Paul S. F. Yip. Internet addiction: prevalence, discriminant validity and correlates amongadolescents in Hong Kong. BJP 2010, 196, 486-92.

2. Shaffer, H. J., Hall, M. N. & Vander Bilt, J. (1999) Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the US and Canada: a research synthesis. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1369-1376.

3. Wu Ping-an. Study of Gambling Crime [2006]. Xiangtan: Xiangtan University.

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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