Gender Variation in the Prevalence of Internet Addiction and Impact of Internet Addiction on Reaction Time and Heart Rate Variability in Medical College Students CC01-CC04
Dr. S Karthik,
Associate Professor, Department of Physiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry-605006, India.
Introduction: In the present era, the internet is widely used by college students for academic, entertainment and communication purposes. College students are vulnerable to internet addiction due to various psychological and social factors. The prevalence and pattern of internet addiction vary between males and females. Internet addiction can significantly affect the physical and mental health of adolescents and college students resulting in poor academic performance and impaired functioning at work.
Aim: To assess the prevalence of internet addiction and its impact on the auditory and visual reaction times and short-term heart rate variability in medical college students.
Materials and Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 201 undergraduate medical students between 18 and 25 years of age participated. Young’s ‘Internet Addiction Test (IAT) questionnaire’ was used to classify the subjects on the basis of their level of internet addiction and prevalence was calculated. In a smaller subset of 93 students who scored 50 or greater in the IAT questionnaire were taken as internet addicts. Auditory reaction time (Tone, Click), visual reaction time (Green, Red) measured using Audio-Visual Reaction Time Apparatus and short-term heart rate variability estimated using Polygraph was analysed between the internet addicts and non-addicts. Shapiro-Wilk normality test was used to assess type of data distribution and Mann-Whitney U-test used for comparison.
Results: Among 201 study subjects, 127 (63.2%) were males and 74 (36.8%) were females. Internet addiction was more prevalent in males (22.8%) than in females (8.1%). Auditory reaction time was significantly prolonged in the internet addicts compared to the non-addicts. Differences in the visual reaction time and short term-heart rate variability parameters were not statistically significant between the two groups with high and low IAT scores.
Conclusion: This study shows the prevalence of internet addiction as 17.4% in undergraduate medical students, based on Young’s IAT score (50 or above). The internet addiction amongst males is significantly higher than in females. An understanding of the gender differences may be helpful for the clinicians to develop cognitive behavioural therapy, taking into account these findings. Auditory reaction time is prolonged, even in the early stages with a moderate level of internet addiction.