September 16th, 2007

What a strange article: 70% of Chinese Netizens Suffer Internet Health Disorder.

Over 40 percent of Chinese netizens spend most of their times surfing the Internet on the weekends. And over 70 percent suffer from some kind of psychological problems. Internet health disorder has become a pressing problem for Chinese netizens. This is the information disclosed by a report surveying Chinese netizens’ health published on September 12 by The survey covers more than 100 million netizens.

70% suffer from some kind of psychological problems? Well, there are plenty of nutjobs online, both inside and outside China, but doesn’t 70% seem a bit on the high side? And wait- a report published by a website and claiming to cover more than 100 million netizens? You’ve really got to wonder about the methodology. And if the methodology is dodgy, then the results are even worse.

The report points out that Internet Health Disorder includes mouse hand, reduced eyesight, neck, shoulder and back joint injuries, insomnia, poor memory, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, Internet dependence/addiction and lack of confidence. Other Internet related sub-health conditions result from computer radiation, a decrease in time for sports and Internet addiction.

Well, some of those problems seem to be likely results of spending too much time at a computer- not necessarily too much time online. I would expect office workers also have high rates of “mouse hand, reduced eyesight, neck, shoulder and back joint injuries” as a result of using computers day in and day out and poor posture. But apart from “Internet dependence/addiction”, can any of those other problems be blamed on internet use? Labelling this rather strange collection of problems “Internet Health Disorder” certainly seems to be blaming the internet, yet I’ve never heard of anyone blaming the internet for ADD before. And a lack of confidence seems to me to be more likely a cause for internet addiction than a result- you know, a stereotypically awkward geeky type is more comfortable with the relative anonymity of online life than having to deal with real people face-to-face. But wait, it only gets weirder:

According to the survey, netizens are not in good health although 95 percent of them know something about sub-health risk factors. 73 percent of netizens suffer from dizziness, insomnia and joint pain. 30 percent of the netizens surveyed or their friends have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular diseases. As many as 50 percent of netizens suffer from an occasional stomachache.

Well, that last sentence is clearly bullshit. As many as 100% of residents of China and a large number of short-term visitors occasionally experience problems with the health of their digestive system. Nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with food safety and hygiene. Of all the health problems listed in this paragraph, I can only see one which could actually be connected to internet use- joint pain- and that probably has more to do with people’s posture as they sit at a computer than what they may be doing with that computer. The rest I would say look like health problems caused by other lifestyle choices. Surely cardiovascular diseases are more likely to be caused by diet, lack of exercise and genetic factors than internet use?

Meanwhile, computer users don’t pay adequate attention to their health, with over half of them spending less than 1,000 yuan (US$133) each year on their health. 63 percent will choose their own medicine instead of consulting a doctor if they feel dizzy or catch cold.

Aha! Is somebody trying to increase their profits here? Could there be some vested interests skewing the results of the survey (assuming a survey was actually conducted)? Let’s have a look: seems to bill itself as 39å?¥åº·ç½‘-中国第一å?¥åº·é—¨…. Well, that’s all that fits into the little Firefox tab, but I think we can assume that is the “Health Net- China’s Number One Health Portal”. And just scanning through the front page, it does seem to be mostly about health. I note that under one section called “Fashionable Health” there are links for Sex, Food and Drink, Body Building, Psychology, Weight Loss, and even Cosmetics. First of all, beauty and health are two completely different things and almost completely unrelated. Same goes for body building. Secondly, I’m starting to smell a big, stinky rat here. This is starting to look like an attempt to scare netizens in the direction of so that can make some money. And besides, the name sounds oddly similar to the name of a large Chinese drug company….

The psychological problems appear more obvious. 20 percent of netizens think that their psychological condition is not healthy. About 50 percent have psychological problems ranging from often to sometimes, but few of them treat the problem. Almost 70 percent have never sought psychological information and over 90 percent have never gone to seek a psychological consultation.

Aha. Right. Well, like a lack of confidence, I think the psychological problems are probably more often a cause than a result of excessive net surfing. And that last sentence seems to be carrying on from 39.nets rather unsubtle plea for us to go to their portal and give them our money.

Netizens: Ignore this article. Just use your common sense, and chances are you’ll be fine.

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