NMSU researcher warns pandemic led to increase in internet addiction

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A New Mexico State University researcher is sounding the alarm on internet addiction.

The pandemic has forced some bad habits on people, like early on when day-drinking was pretty common. But there’s a much bigger problem out there and you might already be suffering from it.

"Just being on the internet is not bad, in fact it’s a dual-edged sword,” said Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, a researcher at New Mexico State University. "You can compare it to other types of addiction – when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you have to do is check your phone or go online and you forget to brush your teeth and you’re not doing what you’re supposed to in the morning.”

Khubchandani recently published a new survey that found a nearly 6% spike in internet addiction since the pandemic began.

According to his data, 14% of American adults have a severe addiction and another 41% are at risk. But where does addiction actually begin?

“In the pandemic, you have to use the internet to do your job, to communicate with others, pay your bills, seek mental health care,” Khubchandani said. "The fine line – we cross it when we lose sleep, and people around us start telling us we’re spending way too much time online. When you wake up and feel frustrated you can’t go on social media, you’re ignoring your household duties, I think that’s when it becomes dangerous and problematic.”

He’s worried this problem could stick around well after the pandemic.

"Some of those people who are addicted now will remain addicted. It’s getting hard to get people out of this pandemic mode.”

And it’s not just internet addiction on the rise, mental health researchers said roughly a quarter of all American adults now have some type of anxiety or depression. Before the pandemic, only 20% had any type of mental health issue.

“Clearly we will never get back to the pre-pandemic levels of anxiety, depression, addiction, unless we take concrete effort and try to fix our society,” said Khubchandani

He’s encouraging the World Health Organization to officially list internet addiction as a disease but said this a battle many will have to fight on their own.

"Really, no one would cure you but your own best judge, you’re the number one player in the game, and you have to take care of yourself.”