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Internet Addiction and Its Relationship With Suicidal Behaviors: A Meta-Analysis of Multinational Observational Studies

J Clin Psychiatry 2018;79(4):17r11761

Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies that investigated the putative association between internet addiction and suicidality.

Data Sources: Major electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, ClinicalKey, Cochrane Library, ProQuest, Science Direct, and were searched using the following keywords (internet addiction OR internet gaming disorder OR internet use disorder OR pathological internet use OR compulsive internet use OR problematic internet use) AND (suicide OR depression) to identify observational studies from inception to October 31, 2017.

Study Selection: We included 23 cross-sectional studies (n = 270,596) and 2 prospective studies (n = 1,180) that investigated the relationship between suicide and internet addiction.

Data Extraction: We extracted the rates of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts in individuals with internet addiction and controls.

Results: The individuals with internet addiction had significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation (odds ratio [OR] = 2.952), planning (OR = 3.172), and attempts (OR = 2.811) and higher severity of suicidal ideation (Hedges g = 0.723). When restricted to adjusted ORs for demographic data and depression, the odds of suicidal ideation and attempts were still significantly higher in the individuals with internet addiction (ideation: pooled adjusted OR = 1.490; attempts: pooled adjusted OR = 1.559). In subgroup analysis, there was a significantly higher prevalence rate of suicidal ideation in children (age less than 18 years) than in adults (OR = 3.771 and OR = 1.955, respectively).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis provides evidence that internet addiction is associated with increased suicidality even after adjusting for potential confounding variables including depression. However, the evidence was derived mostly from cross-sectional studies. Future prospective studies are necessary to confirm these findings.