Suicidality, psychopathology, and the internet: Online time vs. online behaviors
Harris, KM and Starcevic, V and Ma, J and Zhang, W and Aboujaoude, E, Suicidality, psychopathology, and the internet: Online time vs. online behaviors, Psychiatry Research, 255 pp. 341-346. ISSN 0165-1781 (2017) [Refereed Article]
This study investigated whether several psychopathology variables, including suicidality, could predict the time people spend using the internet (hours online). Next, we examined a specific at-risk population (suicidal individuals) by their online behaviors, comparing suicidal individuals who went online for suicide-related purposes with suicidal individuals who did not go online for suicide-related purposes. An anonymous online sample of 713 (aged 18-71) reported hours online, psychiatric histories, and completed several standardized scales. After accounting for age and education, hierarchical regression modeling showed that the assessed psychopathology variables, including suicidality, did not explain significant variance in hours online. Hours online were better predicted by younger age, greater willingness to develop online relationships, higher perceived social support, higher curiosity, and lower extraversion. Suicidal participants, who did or did not go online for suicide-related purposes, did not differ on hours online. Multiple regression modeling showed that those who went online for suicide-related purposes were likely to be younger, more suicidal, and more willing to seek help from online mental health professionals. These findings revealed that hours online are not a valid indicator of psychopathology. However, studying online behaviors of specific at-risk groups could be informative and useful, including for suicide prevention efforts.