238691 Examining the relationship between young adults' internet use (IU) and their psychological well-being (PWB): A risk and resilience perspective

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 1:10 PM

Josť Arturo Bauermeister, MPH, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Michelle Johns, MPH , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, ANn Arbor, MI
Sarah Stoddard, PhD , School of Nursing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Marc Zimmerman, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Background: Early online research described the relationship between IU and PWB from two perspectives: a social compensation hypothesis (e.g., Internet alleviates social anxieties related to face-to-face encounters) and a rich-get-richer hypothesis (e.g., Internet provides an alternative medium for socially-savvy individuals to maximize their socialization). The escalation of online communication in recent years, however, may have changed these relationships. We re-examine these perspectives by testing the association between PWB and YA's reasons for IU.

Methods: Using an adapted web-version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS), we recruited a sample of YA (ages 18 to 24; N=3,400) for a web-survey. Participants answered sociodemographic questions and scales examining PWB (e.g., depression, anxiety, self-esteem), IU and addiction, frequency of online communication for social and coping purposes, and online and offline peer support. We used multivariate regression to examine the relationship between each PWB measure and the IU constructs.

Results: Depression symptoms were related to more internet addiction and online communication to cope, and to less online communication for socializing and peer support. Anxiety symptoms were related to internet addiction and online communication to cope. Self-esteem was associated with less internet addiction and online communication to cope, and more online communication for socializing and peer support.

Conclusions: Our findings support both the social compensation and the rich-get-richer hypotheses. Some YA may use the Internet to cope with psychological distress, whereas others may enhance their PWB via online socialization. We discuss our findings and highlight the importance of providing online PWB resources to YAs in the United States.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate an understanding of the social compensation hypothesis and a rich-get-richer hypothesis as they related to mental health. Discuss the relationship between internet use and psychological well being among YA in the US. Evaluate the potential value of online resources to the psychological well being of YA.

Keywords: Youth, Internet

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Bauermeister is Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) in the UM School of Public Health. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Bauermeister completed his MPH and PhD in Public Health from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the HBHE faculty, Dr. Bauermeister was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at New York University. Dr. Bauermeister oversees the Sexuality & Health Research Lab (SexLab) at the School of Public Health. His primary research interests focus on sexuality and health, and interpersonal prevention and health promotion strategies for high-risk adolescents and young adults. He is Principal Investigator of several projects examining HIV/AIDS risk among young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Dr. Bauermeister is also Co-Investigator of the Virtual Network Study and the Flint Adolescent Study, two studies examining youth well-being.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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