How have researchers acknowledged and controlled for academic work activity when measuring medical students’ internet addiction? A systematic literature review

Ken Masters*, Teresa Loda, Finja Tervooren, Anne Herrmann-Werner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Internationally, medical students’ Internet Addiction (IA) is widely studied. As medical students use the Internet extensively for work, we asked how researchers control for work-related Internet activity, and the extent to which this influences interpretations of “addiction” rates. A search of PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar was conducted on the search phrase of “medical students” and “internet addiction” in March 2020. In total, 98 studies met our criteria, 88 (90%) used Young’s Internet Addiction Test, and the studies’ IA rates ranged widely. Little note was taken of work-related activity, and, when discussed, had little to no impact on the interpretation of Internet “addiction”. Studies seldom accounted for work-related activities, researcher bias appears to influence their position, “usage” appears conflated with “addiction”, and correlations between “addiction” and negative behaviours are frequently confused with one-way causation. In spite of IA’s not being officially recognised, few researchers questioned its validity. While IA may exist among medical students, its measurement is flawed; given the use of the Internet as a crucial medical education tool, there is the risk that conscientious students will be labelled “addicted”, and poor academic performance may be attributed to this “addiction”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7681
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Internet addiction
  • Medical education
  • Medical students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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