At least four out of 10 adolescents are addicted to Internet in Bhutan, according to a study conducted by a team of doctors.

That means about 40 percent of the high school-going adolescents are addicted to Internet in the country.

Internet addiction refers to the compulsive need to spend a lot of time on the Internet, to the point where relationships, work and health suffer.

The research studied 721 school-going adolescents.

The study was conducted among secondary school-going adolescents of class IX-XII in 12 selected schools — six central schools and six day-scholar schools in the country.

The study conducted between May and November last year showed that while 38 percent suffer from moderate addiction, two percent were severe Internet addicts.

The study was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Medical and Health Sciences that ended on November 11 in Thimphu.

Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan’s (KGUMSB)Deputy Dean of Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine, Dr Karma Tenzin, said that depression and anxiety were the associated psychological co-morbidities among Internet addicts. 

He added that while it could not be said whether the addiction actually caused depression and stress, the study showed that people who were addicted were depressed and stressed. “The addiction rate in Bhutan is among the highest in the South East Asian region.”

Internet use in the country was at 75 percent in 2017, which is also the highest in the region. Mobile subscription stands at 92 percent.

The study showed that boredom, stress or anxiety and peer pressure were some of the key triggers of Internet use.

Dr Karma Tenzin said that Internet facility at home, use of smartphones, social networking, and nighttime use were associated with Internet addiction.

He added that Internet addiction affected academic performance and led to sleeplessness due to irregular sleeping patterns.

The study showed that 79 percent of those studied used Internet for education, 57 percent for social networking, and 29 percent for gaming.

According to the study, urban residence, Internet facility at home, use of smartphone, social networking, nighttime use, use in hostel and other psychological co-morbidities such as depression and stress were significantly associated with Internet addiction.

Dr Karma Tenzin said that the factors identified to be associated with Internet addiction and the user’s perspective on Internet use provided valuable information that could be used in designing preventive interventions. “The role of teachers and parents is crucial in monitoring child’s Internet use and educating them about the hazards of Internet use through a structured curriculum.”

The team of researchers plans to involve and engage with relevant stakeholders to come up with necessary interventions. 

Phurpa Lhamo