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Psychiatric Comorbidity Assessed in Korean Children and Adolescents Who Screen Positive for Internet Addiction

Jee Hyun Ha, M.D., Ph.D.; Hee Jeong Yoo, M.D., Ph.D.; In Hee Cho, M.D.; Bumsu Chin, M.D.; Dongkeun Shin, M.D.; and Ji Hyeon Kim, M.D.

Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate clinical comorbidity in children and adolescents with Internet addiction by using structured interview.

Method: The study was performed in 2 stages. We screened for the presence of Internet addiction among 455 children (mean ± SD age = 11.0 ± 0.9 years) and 836 adolescents (mean ± SD age = 15.8 ± 0.8 years) using Young's Internet Addiction Scale. These subjects also completed a measure of psychopathology for comparison between addicted and nonaddicted subjects. Sixty-three children (13.8%) and 170 adolescents (20.3%) screened positive for Internet addiction. Of these, 12 children (male, N = 9; female, N = 3) and 12 adolescents (male, N = 11; female, N = 1) were randomly selected for evaluation of current psychiatric diagnoses. Structured interviews used were K-SADS - PL - K for children and SCID-IV for adolescents. Data were collected and interviews were conducted from August 2003 through October 2004.

Results: In the child group, 7 were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) not otherwise specified including those with subthreshold levels. Mean DuPaul's ADHD Rating Scale scores were more than 20% higher than the mean in Korean children for 6 subjects. In the adolescent group, 3 subjects had major depressive disorder, 1 had schizophrenia, and 1 had obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Conclusion: By structured interview, we found that Internet-addicted subjects had various comorbid psychiatric disorders. The most closely related comorbidities differ with age. Though we can not conclude that Internet addiction is a cause or consequence of these disorders, clinicians must consider the possibility of age-specific comorbid psychiatric disorders in cases of Internet addiction.

(J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67:821-826)

Received Nov. 15, 2005; accepted March 22, 2006. From the Department of Psychiatry, Yongin Mental Hospital (Drs. Ha, Chin, Shin, and Kim); and the Department of Neuropsychiatry, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (Dr. Yoo), Kyunggi Province; and the Department of Psychiatry, Gachon University of Medicine and Science (Dr. Cho), Incheon, South Korea.

Supported by a grant from Yongin Psychiatric Research Institute, Yongin City, Kyunggi Province, South Korea.

Drs. Ha, Yoo, Cho, Chin, Shin, and Kim report no other significant commercial relationships relevant to the study.

Corresponding author and reprints: Jee Hyun Ha, M.D., Ph.D., Yongin Mental Hospital, 4 Sangha Ri, Kusung Eup, Yongin City, Kyunggi Province, 449-769, South Korea (e-mail: