Correlates of Problematic Internet Use among college and university students in eight countries: An international cross-sectional study

Highlights:

There is limited comparative literature on PIU.

The study assessed PIU among university/college students of eight countries.

The overall prevalence of PIU for the entire sample was 8.4%.

Depressive and anxiety symptoms were the most stable and strongest factors associated with PIU.

Internet use has increased worldwide exponentially over the past two decades, with no up-to-date cross-country comparison of Problematic Internet Use (PIU) and its correlates available. The present study aimed to explore the pattern and correlates of PIU across different countries in the European and the Asian continent. Further, the stability of factors associated with PIU across different countries were assessed. An international, cross-sectional study with a total of 2749 participants recruited from universities/colleges of eight countries: Bangladesh, Croatia, India, Nepal, Turkey, Serbia, Vietnam, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Participants completed the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale -2 (GPIUS2) assessing PIU, and the Patient Health Questionnaire Anxiety-Depression Scale (PHQ-ADS) assessing the depressive and anxiety symptoms. A total of 2643 participants (mean age 21.3 ± 2.6; 63% females) were included in the final analysis. The overall prevalence of PIU for the entire sample was 8.4% (range 1.6% to 12.6%). The mean GPIUS2 standardized scores were significantly higher among participants from the five Asian countries when compared to the three European countries. Depressive and anxiety symptoms were the most stable and strongest factors associated with PIU across different countries and cultures. The PIU is an important emerging mental health condition among college/university going young adults, with psychological distress being the strongest and most stable correlate of PIU across different countries and cultures in this study. The present study highlighted the importance of screening university and college students for PIU.

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