The aim of the study is to investigate (a) whether probable depression status assessed at baseline prospectively predicted new incidence of Internet addiction (IA) at the 12-month follow-up and (b) whether IA status assessed at baseline prospectively predicted new incidence of probable depression at follow-up.
We conducted a 12-month cohort study ( n = 8,286) among Hong Kong secondary students, and derived two subsamples. The first subsample ( n = 6,954) included students who were non-IA at baseline, using the Chen Internet Addiction Scale (≤63), and another included non-depressed cases at baseline ( n = 3,589), using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (<16).
In the first subsample, 11.5% of the non-IA cases developed IA during follow-up, and probable depression status at baseline significantly predicted new incidence of IA [severe depression: adjusted odds ratio (ORa) = 2.50, 95% CI = 2.07, 3.01; moderate: ORa = 1.82, 95% CI = 1.45, 2.28; mild: ORa = 1.65, 95% CI = 1.32, 2.05; reference: non-depressed], after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. In the second subsample, 38.9% of those non-depressed participants developed probable depression during follow-up. Adjusted analysis showed that baseline IA status also significantly predicted new incidence of probable depression (ORa = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.18, 2.09).
The high incidence of probable depression is a concern that warrants interventions, as depression has lasting harmful effects in adolescents. Baseline probable depression predicted IA at follow-up and vice versa, among those who were free from IA/probable depression at baseline. Healthcare workers, teachers, and parents need to be made aware of this bidirectional finding. Interventions, both IA and depression prevention, should thus take both problems into consideration.