People may be using the internet in order to cope with the demands of excessive work, and this coping strategy is not restricted to the young. These are the findings reported today, Wednesday 8 January, at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology in Brighton, by Dr Cristina Quinones-Garcia of Northampton Business School and Professor Nada Korac-Kakabadse of Henley Business School.
They recruited 516 men and women aged between 18 and 65 (with an average age of approximately 42 years), both employed and unemployed, to complete questionnaires to measure compulsive internet usage, emotional stability, excessive work, and compulsive work and life satisfaction.
Over 60 per cent of the participants reported compulsive internet use, with no overall difference in gender. Working excessively was strongly associated with compulsive internet use even when allowing for the factor of emotional stability, indicating that certain habits predominate over personality factors. While unemployed individuals spent more time online, they did not show higher levels of compulsive usage compared to the employed. Flirting online was the activity that compulsive internet users engaged in the most.
Compulsive internet usage emerged as a coping strategy exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet. Individuals who reported a high level of compulsive use are at a high risk of suffering from isolation, depression and anxiety.
Dr Quinones-Garcia and Professor Korac-Kakabadse say: "those individuals who use technology to enable working beyond office hours tend to be highly successful in their jobs, but are at a high risk of developing other problems."
They urge companies not to underestimate the risks involved in encouraging working excessively, given the effects the internet has on people's lives.