Pathological Internet use among European adolescents: psychopathology and self-destructive behaviours

Michael Kaess, Tony Durkee, Romuald Brunner, Vladimir Carli, Peter Parzer, Camilla Wasserman, Marco Sarchiapone, Christina Hoven, Alan Apter, Judit Balazs, Maria Balint, Julio Bobes, Renaud Cohen, Doina Cosman, Padraig Cotter, Gloria Fischer, Birgitta Floderus, Miriam Iosue, Christian Haring, Jean Pierre KahnGeorge J. Musa, Bogdan Nemes, Vita Postuvan, Franz Resch, Pilar A. Saiz, Merike Sisask, Avigal Snir, Airi Varnik, Janina Žiberna, Danuta Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Rising global rates of pathological Internet use (PIU) and related psychological impairments have gained considerable attention in recent years. In an effort to acquire evidence-based knowledge of this relationship, the main objective of this study was to investigate the association between PIU, psychopathology and self-destructive behaviours among school-based adolescents in eleven European countries. This cross-sectional study was implemented within the framework of the European Union project: Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe. A representative sample of 11,356 school-based adolescents (M/F: 4,856/6,500; mean age: 14.9) was included in the analyses. PIU was assessed using the Young’s Diagnostic Questionnaire. Psychopathology was measured using the Beck Depression Inventory-II, Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Self-destructive behaviours were evaluated by the Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory and Paykel Suicide Scale. Results showed that suicidal behaviours (suicidal ideation and suicide attempts), depression, anxiety, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention were significant and independent predictors of PIU. The correlation between PIU, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention was stronger among females, while the link between PIU and symptoms of depression, anxiety and peer relationship problems was stronger among males. The association between PIU, psychopathology and self-destructive behaviours was stronger in countries with a higher prevalence of PIU and suicide rates. These findings ascertain that psychopathology and suicidal behaviours are strongly related to PIU. This association is significantly influenced by gender and country suggesting socio-cultural influences. At the clinical and public health levels, targeting PIU among adolescents in the early stages could potentially lead to improvements of psychological well-being and a reduction of suicidal behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1102
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The SEYLE project is supported through Coordination Theme 1 (Health) of the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7), Grant agreement nr HEALTH-F2-2009-223091. The authors were independent of the funders in all aspects of study design, data analysis and writing of this manuscript. The Project Leader and Coordinator of the SEYLE project is Professor in Psychiatry and Suicidology Danuta Wasserman, Karolinska Institute (KI), Head of the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health and Suicide (NASP), at KI, Stockholm, Sweden. Other members of the Executive Committee are Professor Marco Sarchiapone, Department of Health Sciences, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy; Senior Lecturer Vladimir Carli, National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP), Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; Professor Christina W. Hoven and Anthropologist Camilla Wasserman, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University, New York, USA. The SEYLE Consortium comprises centres in 12 European countries. Site leaders for each respective centre and country are: Danuta Wasserman (NASP, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, Coordinating Centre), Christian Haring (University for Medical Information Technology, Austria), Airi Varnik (Estonian-Swedish Mental Health & Suicidology Institute, Estonia), Jean-Pierre Kahn (University of Nancy, France), Romuald Brunner (University of Heidelberg, Germany), Judit Balazs (Vadaskert Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, Hungary), Paul Corcoran (National Suicide Research Foundation, Ireland), Alan Apter (Schneider Children’s Medical Centre of Israel, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel), Marco Sarchiapone (University of Molise, Italy), Doina Cosman (Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Romania), Vita Postuvan (University of Primorska, Slovenia) and Julio Bobes (University of Oviedo, Spain). Support for “Ethical Issues in Research with Minors and other Vulnerable Groups” was obtained by a grant from the Botnar Foundation, Basel, for Professor of Ethics, Dr. Stella Reiter-Theil, Psychiatric Clinic at Basel University, who served as the independent ethical consultant to the SEYLE project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, The Author(s).


  • Internet addiction
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Pathological Internet use
  • Psychopathology
  • Suicidal behaviour


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