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Problematic internet use and suicidal behavior in adolescents: A review.

BACKGROUND: Suicide is a leading cause of death in adolescents. Problematic internet use (PIU) has been associated with suicidal behavior in this age group. To assess this association, we reviewed population-based studies that examined the relationship between PIU and suicidal behavior.

METHODS: We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science for studies published in English from 1995 through 2021. Only studies with the stated aim to examine the relationship between PIU and suicidal behavior in participants age 13 through 18 were included. Also, each study had to include a measure of internet overuse with resultant impairment/distress. To minimize selection bias, studies with convenience samples were excluded.

RESULTS: Seven cross-sectional studies with at least 9,500 participants each met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Five assessed both suicidal ideation and suicide attempts and 2 examined suicidal ideation only. All studies found a statistically significant association between suicidal behavior and PIU. Effect sizes were mostly in the minimal to small range.

CONCLUSIONS: All 7 studies supported a positive relationship between PIU and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, which could be clinically important. Longitudinal studies with improved methodology are needed to identify risk factors and determine whether PIU is causally related to suicidality.

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