SOME six percent of the population of the Balearic Islands has “psychological problems” as a result of using the Internet, a Health ministry study revealed yesterday. Transferred to the region as a whole, the figures reflect that 1.5 percent of the Islands' inhabitants is affected by the condition.
Jose Maria Vazquez is a specialist in addiction at the Capistrano Clinic. He said yesterday that in another section of research, the pioneering investigation shows that 3.5 percent of the region's inhabitants could be addicted to shopping, and that around 9 percent are obsessed by work. People's addiction to the “burgeoning variety of games available on the internet” is just one of the behavioural problems in society which the Health authorities need to address, said Vazquez who made the distinction between people who simply wanted to spend a great deal of time playing computer games, and those who had got to the stage where they needed to. The latter implied a “deeply problematical” psychological condition. Bartolome Jaume, Drug Dependency regional coordinator explained that people suffering from such a condition might be masking their obsession through taking narcotics. Vazquez pointed to the gap in public health care created by there being no health insurance to cover those who had fallen prey to addiction, either in the case of narcotics or in that of psychological obsession. These conditions can arise due to anxiety or depression, and if left untreated, can lead to social marginalisation. In relation to the need to constantly be playing computer games, the study revealed that an inability to control spending affects nearly four percent of the population of the Balearics, and of this figure, two percent hide from those around them, the amount of money they put towards feeding their addiction. Alarmingly, this figure rises to ten percent in the case of those who bet. Irritability on being interrupted, lack of behavioural control and the persistence of trying to make up losses are common characteristics of sufferers, who will let more pressing financial responsibilities to one side to satisfy their obsession. In relation to internet addiction, those most likely to fall prey are males between the ages of 16 and 25.
Investigation showed that many sought the “comfort” of the internet as a way of escaping other problems.

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