Loneliness, social contacts and Internet addiction: A cross-lagged panel study

Mike Z. Yao, Zhi Jin Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aims to examine the causal priority in the observed empirical relationships between Internet addiction and other psychological problems. A cross-lagged panel survey of 361 college students in Hong Kong was conducted. Results show that excessive and unhealthy Internet use would increase feelings of loneliness over time. Although depression had a moderate and positive bivariate relationship with Internet addiction at each time point, such a relationship was not significant in the cross-lagged analyses. This study also found that online social contacts with friends and family were not an effective alternative for offline social interactions in reducing feelings of loneliness. Furthermore, while an increase in face-to-face contacts could help to reduce symptoms of Internet addiction, this effect may be neutralized by the increase in online social contacts as a result of excessive Internet use. Taken as a whole, findings from the study show a worrisome vicious cycle between loneliness and Internet addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-lagged panel design
  • Depression
  • Internet addiction
  • Loneliness
  • Social isolation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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