Despite widespread internet use and computer gaming, as well as concerns about online addiction, little is known regarding the relationship between problematic internet use/computer gaming and mental health (MH) symptomatology among US college students. To address this gap, the present study examines a large, nation‐wide sample of US college students to assess the rate of problematic internet use/computer gaming and its association with MH symptoms.
Using data from 43,003 undergraduates participating in the 2017 American College Health Association‐National College Health Assessment, we examined rates of problematic internet use/computer gaming, defined as self‐reported internet use/computer gaming that negatively affected academic performance. Logistic regression using a generalized estimating equations approach to adjust for clustering by school examined whether rates of MH symptomatology differed among students who reported problematic versus nonproblematic internet use and computer gaming.
Ten percent of students reported problematic internet use/computer gaming that had negatively impacted academic performance. Adjusting for a range of covariates, students reporting problematic internet use/computer gaming had higher rates of all 11 MH indicators examined, with odds ratios ranging from 1.42 (“ever attempted suicide”) to 3.90 (“ever felt overwhelmed by all you had to do”).
Problematic internet use/computer gaming is reported by 10% of undergraduate students and represents a significant correlate of MH symptomatology. These findings suggest that problematic internet use/computer gaming will be an important public health focus for college campuses.