Study: No Evidence Internet Harms Mental Health

John Lister's picture

Researchers say they were unable to find a clear link between Internet use and harm to mental health. However, the results looked at national populations as a whole, rather than individual behavior.

The researchers, from Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute, said they were limited by a lack of data and cooperation from major tech companies.

The broad research paper, "Global Well-Being and Mental Health in the Internet Age", looked at studies of psychological wellbeing of around 2.4 million people across 18 countries. The researchers looked at changes in reported wellbeing between 2005 and 2022 in each country, then compared it with figures for Internet usage growth over that period.

No Clear Link

They found no clear correlation between the two sets of figures for either the worldwide population or specific countries. It also found no evidence that particular demographics were at greatest risk of mental harm. (Source:

The findings did suggest a possible link between Internet use levels and mental health problems in younger people, though the link was "small in magnitude."

The researchers didn't argue their findings completely disprove any link and noted that tech company internal data might lend a greater insight. They argued that not only do these tech firms have data about individual use of technologies, but constantly analyze it for their own benefit. (Source:

However, they concluded there isn't strong enough evidence in their findings to justify any regulatory steps to limit mental health harm.

Tech Firms Criticized

Some reports of the study have pointed out limitations, most notably that it didn't seek to examine how people were using the Internet (for example, social media use vs streaming). Neither did it look at whether the time spent online had any measurable effect on mental health.

Co-author Andrew Przybylski has criticized previous research into the topic as being based on inadequate data with insufficient evidence to justify the high levels of attention given to the findings.

He also noted that much previous research has concentrated on English-speaking countries, which he says is particularly unrepresentative of the younger global population.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised by this finding? Was it a good methodology? Is this a subject worthy of more research?

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Dennis Faas's picture

It may not affect mental health according to this study, but it's arguable whether or not apps like Tiktok have the ability to brainwash people by attempting to normalize certain behaviors. The Israel war and woke culture are excellent examples.

buzzallnight's picture

Evidence Internet Harms Mental Health!