Lost in the Net? Broadband Internet and Youth Mental Health

46 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2022

See all articles by Dante Donati

Dante Donati

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing

Ruben Durante

Universitat Pompeu Fabra; The University of Manchester - Institute for Political & Economic Governance (IPEG); Barcelona School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Queen Mary University of London

Francesco Sobbrio

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Department of Economics and Finance; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Dijana Zejcirovic

University of Vienna

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

How does the internet affect young people’s mental health? We study this question in the context of Italy using administrative data on the universe of cases of mental disorders diagnosed in Italian hospitals between 2001 and 2013, which we combine with information on the availability of highspeed internet at the municipal level. Our identification strategy exploits differences in the proximity of municipalities to the pre-existing voice telecommunication infrastructure, which was previously irrelevant but became salient after the advent of the internet. We find that access to high-speed internet has a harmful effect on mental health for young cohorts but not for older ones. In particular, internet access is associated with an increase in diagnoses of depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and personality disorders– for both males and females - and of eating and sleep disorders - for females only. We find similar results for urgent and compulsory hospitalizations and self-harm episodes. These results suggest that the effect of broadband is driven by a rise in the underlying prevalence of mental disorders and not merely by increased awareness about these pathologies.

Keywords: mental health, internet, ADSL, 3G

JEL Classification: I120, I310, L820, L860

Suggested Citation

Donati, Dante and Durante, Ruben and Sobbrio, Francesco and Zejcirovic, Dijana, Lost in the Net? Broadband Internet and Youth Mental Health (2022). CESifo Working Paper No. 9676, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4082581 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4082581

Dante Donati (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Ruben Durante

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005
Spain

The University of Manchester - Institute for Political & Economic Governance (IPEG)

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Barcelona School of Economics

Carrer de Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Queen Mary University of London

Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Francesco Sobbrio

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

Via columbia 2
Rome, Rome 00123
Italy

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Dijana Zejcirovic

University of Vienna ( email )

Vienna
Austria

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