BOSTON -- Almost 6 percent of Internet users suffer from some form of addiction to it, according to the largest study of Web surfers ever conducted.
"Marriages are being disrupted, kids are getting into trouble, people are committing illegal acts, people are spending too much money. As someone who treats patients, I see it," said David Greenfield, the therapist and researcher who did the study.
The findings, which were released yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, appear likely to bolster the expanding acceptance of compulsive Internet use as a real psychological disorder.
Kimberly Young, a pioneer in the new field of research, said the latest study is so broad that it "adds a layer of legitimacy to the concern that Internet addiction is real."
However, the 6 percent figure is lower that some estimates of 10 percent or more stemming largely from research on college students.
Greenfield, who is a psychologist in West Hartford, Conn., carried out the study jointly with ABC News. He collected 17,251 responses to an Internet use questionnaire.
He adapted his questions from a widely used set of criteria for gambling addiction. For example, the questionnaires asked if participants had used the Internet to escape from their problems, tried unsuccessfully to cut back, or found themselves preoccupied with the Internet when they were no longer at the computer. …