Lost in the Net? Broadband Internet and Youth Mental Health

33 Pages Posted: 27 May 2022

See all articles by Dante Donati

Dante Donati

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing

Ruben Durante

National University Singapore; Barcelona School of Economics; IZA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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: April 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 high-speed 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 significant positive effect on the incidence of mental disorders for young cohorts but not for older ones. In particular, internet access leads to 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: 3G, ADSL, internet, mental health

JEL Classification: I12, I31, L82, L86

Suggested Citation

Donati, Dante and Durante, Ruben and Sobbrio, Francesco and Zejcirovic, Dijana, Lost in the Net? Broadband Internet and Youth Mental Health (April 2022). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP17170, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4121345

Dante Donati (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Ruben Durante

National University Singapore ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.rubendurante.net

Barcelona School of Economics ( email )

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

IZA ( email )

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

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
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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