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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 338-343

Internet addiction among college students in relation to five factor personality and loneliness

Department of Psychology, Amity Institute of Behavioural and Allied Sciences, Amity University, Rajasthan, Jaipur, India

Date of Submission21-Jan-2020
Date of Decision13-Feb-2020
Date of Acceptance11-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication31-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Sangram Singh Nathawat
C-135 A, Dayanand Marg, Tilak Nagar, Jaipur - 302 004, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_2_20

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Background: College life is a phase where students face various academic as well as emotional issues. Excessive internet use by students is linked with emotional ill health based on one's personality and isolated behavior. Aims: The present study aimed at investigating the prevalence of internet addiction, comparison among students considering the level of addiction and gender on personality factors and loneliness, and also to explore the association between internet addiction, personality factors, and loneliness measure. Materials and Methods: The sample of 200 college students (100 boys and 100 girls) was administered Internet Addiction Test by Young, University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (Version 3) by Russell and Neo Five-Factor Inventory by Costa and McCrae. Results: Of a sample of 200 students, 28% were free from internet addiction, 57% fell into the category of mild internet addiction, and 15% fell into the moderate-severe internet-addiction category. 2 × 2 factorial design was employed to see the differences in personality factors and loneliness concerning internet addiction and gender differences along with their joint effects on these measures. Significant differences were observed on two personality factors (neuroticism and extraversion) and loneliness measure in students with different levels of internet addiction. Furthermore, correlation analysis revealed a positive and significant correlation of internet addiction with neuroticism as well as loneliness, whereas other measures of personality were negatively correlated. Neuroticism was positively and significantly correlated with loneliness. However, other personality factors were significantly but negatively correlated. Conclusion: Significant differences were observed among students considering the level of addiction on two personality factors and loneliness measure. In addition, significant associations were seen among internet addiction, personality factors, and loneliness.

Keywords: College students, internet addiction, loneliness, personality factors

How to cite this article:
Nathawat SS, Gawas CS. Internet addiction among college students in relation to five factor personality and loneliness. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2020;36:338-43

How to cite this URL:
Nathawat SS, Gawas CS. Internet addiction among college students in relation to five factor personality and loneliness. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 28];36:338-43. Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2020/36/4/338/305939

  Introduction Top

Students entering colleges and adapting to a new environment can result in experiencing several problems in college life. College life poses several challenges for students such as academic competition, shift in the surrounding environment, communicating with new people, forming new relations, sleep disturbances, feeling incompetent, and worry about the changes happening in life.[1] Loneliness is a major factor among adolescents and individuals in early adulthood.[2] Adolescence is an age of changes at different settings and dealing with these changes can trigger loneliness.[3] College life is a period of late adolescence and early adulthood for most of the students. Having close friends and romantic relations are a major need of this age and inability to maintain that could be another reason for experiencing loneliness.[4]

The internet is popular among people of different age groups for several purposes. College students use the internet mainly for academic purposes, social networking, gaming, shopping, and entertainment. The availability and accessibility of the internet have become easier and cheaper which has led to the growing use of the internet. Internet overuse can lead to addiction. Internet addiction and problems caused by overuse of the internet have been highlighted by Young.[5] Internet addiction among college students has aroused great interest in researchers due to its ill effects.[6],[7],[8] College students are at the risk of falling into the trap of internet addiction.[8]

Five-factor personality and its relation to internet addiction have been studied in various researches. Neuroticism factor of personality of an individual is defined as someone prone to anxiety, worry, and having poor impulse control. Extraverted individual is driven toward the crowd showing elated energy. Openness to experience factor of personality depicts the interest of a person in appreciating beauty art, music, and nature. Agreeableness factor of personality displays suspicious and sceptical nature of an individual who puts one's opinions first before others. Conscientiousness displays well-organized qualities of person, aiming for excellence.[9] In a meta-analytic review, it was observed that big five personality factors play a vital role in internet addiction. It was concluded that neuroticism was positively related and extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were negatively related to internet addiction.[10] Young adults were assessed to analyze the relationship between big five personality traits and internet addiction. It was further concluded from the results obtained that internet use was positively related to extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.[11] The personality traits (neuroticism and conscientiousness) play an important role in the problematic use of the internet, neuroticism plays the role of risk factor whereas conscientiousness as a protective factor.[12] Internet use was seen to be negatively correlated with agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion.[13] In a study among undergraduate students, girls scored higher scores on openness to experience and agreeableness factor of personality stating a significant difference among girls and boys.[14] Gender differences in neuroticism and agreeableness factor of personality were noted showing higher scores on both of these factors among women compared to men.[15]

A study revealed that loneliness was positively and significantly related to internet addiction and was found to be a significant risk factor.[16] A significant positive correlation was observed between loneliness and internet addiction.[17] Greater use of the internet was associated with lesser communication with family, reduced social circle, and increased loneliness and depression among the study sample.[18] Men tend to be less lonely compared to women because men are hesitant to open up about their feelings.[19] Females were lonelier than males across different age groups was observed in a study.[20]

Relation between personality factors and loneliness has been highlighted previously. Neuroticism and conscientiousness were seen to have significant relation with loneliness. Higher neuroticism was associated with higher chances of perceived loneliness and higher conscientiousness was associated with a lower risk of loneliness.[21] In another study, loneliness was found to have an inverse relationship with extraversion and a positive relation with neuroticism.[22]

In the current study, one of the rising problems among college-going students, i.e., internet addiction was evaluated as the use of internet has been increasing and the purpose of internet use is also changing over the years. Having access to the internet has become mandatory for students in some colleges for academic purposes. The study aimed at assessing the usage of the internet among college students as college life is a phase of transition. Furthermore, it intended at analyzing the severity of internet addiction and its relation to personality factors and loneliness measure. In addition, the relationship between internet addiction, personality factors, and loneliness was also evaluated as these two factors are related to each other.

Aims and objectives

  1. To assess the magnitude of internet addiction among the students
  2. To evaluate differences if any, in five-factor personality and loneliness measure in students with different levels of internet addiction
  3. To examine the gender effect on these measures.(i.e., personality factors and loneliness)
  4. To understand the interaction effect of levels of internet addiction and gender on measures of personality and loneliness
  5. To analyze the correlation between internet addiction, five personality factors, and loneliness.

It was hypothesized that measures of five personality factors and loneliness will significantly differ in students with different levels of internet addiction. Gender differences may also be significant in these measures. Furthermore, the joint effect of the level of internet addiction and gender will significantly affect the measures of personality and loneliness. Finally, there would be a significant trend of correlation among internet addiction, different measures of personality, and loneliness.

  Methods Top

The present study employed factorial as well as correlational design. 2 × 2 factorial design proposes to study the effect of two independent variables, i.e., level of internet addiction and gender on five personality factors and loneliness which are considered as dependent variables. The correlation matrix was computed to investigate the correlation in these measures.

Mean, standard deviation (SD), two-way ANOVA, and Pearson product-moment correlation were computed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) IBM SPSS statistics for windows version 25, Armonk, NewYork.[23]

The sample consisted of 200 (100 boys and 100 girls) undergraduate students of arts, science, and commerce streams falling in the age range of 17–20 years. The mean age of the students was 18.9.

Inclusion criteria

Students using the internet on a daily basis were included in the study. Undergraduate students from arts, science, and commerce streams were part of the study.

Exclusion criteria

Undergraduate students who belonged to courses other than B.A. B.Sc. and B.Com were not part of the study.

A personal interview by the researcher which included questions about whether an individual is using the internet on a daily basis and willing to participate in the study was carried out. Post the interview those willing to participate and use the internet daily (100 girls and 100 boys) out of 221 interviewed students were selected from the different classes of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year of St. Xavier's College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Goa. Permission was obtained from the Vice-Chancellor on behalf of the academic council in the school research doctoral committee presentation, of the institution the researcher belongs to and carrying out the research work for the present study. Written permission was obtained from the principal of the college for data collection. Consents were taken from the students for participating in the study in written form.


Internet Addiction Test (IAT) by Young was used to assess internet usage. This is a 20-item Likert scale which measures mild, moderate, and severe level of internet addiction. According to Young's criteria, total IAT scores ranging from 20 to 39 denote “Mild addiction” which means average use of the internet where individuals can have complete control over their internet use. “Moderate addiction” score ranges from 40 to 69 which denote internet usage is causing frequent problems affecting the life of an individual. “Severe addiction” score ranges from 70 to 100 which depicts internet usage is leading to substantial problems impacting the life among individuals. The psychometric property of the test was established and the following six factors were developed including salience, excess use, neglecting work, anticipation, lack of self-control, and neglecting social life. The internal consistency was found to be good (alpha coefficient, 0.54–0.82) and the factors were positively correlated with each other stating the validity of the test.[24]

University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (Version 3) is a 20-item loneliness scale attempts to measure an individual's subjective loneliness and social isolation feelings. Participants rate each item by choosing one of these four options provided 1 = N (Never), 2 = R (Rarely), 3 = S (Sometimes), and 4 = A (Always). Few items in the scale are reverse scored and the score ranges from 20 to 80. A higher score indicates higher loneliness. The scale is found to have internal consistency (0.89 to 0.84) and test-retest reliability over 1 year (r = 0.73). Convergent validity and construct validity were also established.[25]

NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI)-3 by Costa and McCrae, consists of 60 items, it measures five factors of personality namely neuroticism (N), extraversion (E), openness to experience (O), agreeableness (A), and conscientiousness (C). Each domain is measured with 12 items bearing 4 response options from (0) strongly agree to (4) strongly disagree. Internal consistency for the five 12-item scales of the NEO-FFI was found to be falling in the range of 0.68 (A) to 0.89 (N).[26],[27]

  Results Top

Of 200 students 55 (27.5%) belonged to arts, 78 (39%) belonged to science and 67 (33.5%) belonged to commerce faculty. Class-wise classification of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students were as follows 84 (42%), 63 (31.5%), and 53 (26.5%).

[Table 1] shows the classification of students into internet addiction categories. A major portion of the students fell in the category of mild-internet addiction (57%) followed by free from internet addiction (28%) and finally moderate-severe internet addiction (15%).
Table 1: Number of students free from internet addiction, mild internet addiction, and moderate-severe internet addiction categories

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[Table 2] shows girls and boys mean scores and SD of total internet addiction, five factors personality, and loneliness scores.
Table 2: Girls and boys mean scores and standard deviation of internet addiction, five-factor personality, and loneliness scores

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[Table 3] shows mean scores and SD of all the five personality factors and loneliness measure of students belonging to categories of free from internet addiction, mild internet addiction, and moderate-severe internet addiction.
Table 3: Mean and standard deviation of students free from internet addiction, mild internet addiction, and moderatesevere internet addiction on five-factor personality and loneliness

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[Table 4] exhibits the 2 × 2 factorial results of five personality factors and loneliness measure at gender, internet addiction level, and interaction of gender and internet addiction. Significant differences were noted between free from internet addiction, mild internet addiction, and moderate-severe internet addiction groups on neuroticism factor (F = 41.07, P < 0.001), extraversion (F = 6.04, P < 0.005), and loneliness (F = 64.09, P < 0.001). Other personality factors showed no significant differences. Likewise, there were no significant differences considering gender and gender-internet addiction interaction.
Table 4: Two-way ANOVA results of five-factor personality and loneliness scores at gender, internet addiction, and gender-addiction interaction level

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[Table 5] presents correlational values between internet addiction, five personality factors, and loneliness.
Table 5: Correlation between internet addiction, five factor personality and loneliness

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  Discussion Top

The current study was carried out to assess the use of the internet and its relation to personality factors and loneliness among undergraduate students. Several studies have put forth internet addiction and its relation to different personality factors.[10],[11],[12],[13] According to the findings of the present study, the students falling in the category of moderate-severe internet addiction scored higher (mean = 31.53, SD = 2.76) on the neuroticism factor of personality compared to the other two groups; mild internet-addiction group (mean = 24.94, SD = 4.97) and free from internet addiction group (mean = 22.25, SD = 4.61). The moderate-severe group (mean = 25.80, SD = 4.06) scored lower on the extraversion domain compared to the mild internet-addiction group (mean = 27.82, SD = 4.71) and free from the internet-addiction group (mean = 29.29, SD = 3.92). As shown in [Table 4], at internet addiction level; the three groups of students based on their internet use (free from internet addiction, mild internet addiction, and moderate-severe internet addiction) showed significant differences on neuroticism and extraversion domains of the personality. Thus, it could be stated that the results are in line with the observations of the studies which suggested that higher neuroticism and less extroversion displayed significant associations with internet addictive behavior among medical students.[28] Those individuals, categorized as internet over users scored high on neuroticism and less on extraversion.[29]

The association between internet addiction and loneliness has been highlighted in various studies.[16],[17],[18] Likewise, in the present study, moderate-severe internet addiction group of students (M = 47.40, SD = 6.27) showed the highest loneliness scores followed by the mild internet-addiction group (M = 40.20, SD = 6.86) and finally free from internet addiction student's group (M = 32.16, SD = 3.9). Thus, three groups differed significantly when compared at the addiction level. Similar results were obtained where loneliness was found to be one of the predictors of internet addiction.[30] Overuse of internet was associated with increased loneliness.[18]

The correlation study results [Table 5] stating a positive correlation of internet addiction with neuroticism and negative correlation with extraversion, openness to experience is in line with past studies. The results could be supported by a study where neuroticism was positively related to internet addiction and extraversion and openness to experience were negatively related to internet addiction.[10] In addition, the study results state that internet addiction was positively and significantly correlated with loneliness which is in accordance with the results of the study which stated that loneliness was positively and significantly correlated with internet addiction and it is the prominent factor related to subscales of internet addiction.[31] Similarly, loneliness had a mild positive correlation with internet addiction.[30] The current study displays a significant correlation between five personality factors and loneliness. A positive and significant correlation was seen between neuroticism and loneliness whereas extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were negatively and significantly related to loneliness. A meta-analytic review suggested similar results stating that extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience were negatively related whereas neuroticism was positively related to loneliness.[32]


The study sample was limited only to one college and a small sample size. The current study was based only on self-reports. The sociodemographic details and their association with internet addiction were not carried out.

Future directions

In the future studies, the association of sociodemographic details with other study variables could be evaluated. Associations of internet addiction and other psychiatric morbidities could also be studied. A detailed interview could be conducted to understand the pattern of internet use among students.


The results of the present study could be useful in understanding the role of personality factors and loneliness in students having internet addiction. As loneliness among college students is seen as a growing problem, students experiencing loneliness could be screened for internet addiction or vice versa.

  Conclusion Top

It could be interpreted that differences existed in personality traits and loneliness measure, when the students were compared based on their internet usage. It was also observed that internet usage, personality factors, and loneliness were related to each other. Earlier it was observed in a study that neurotic ailments and excessive use of the internet are closely linked. Thus, neuroticism plays an important role in this habitual usage pattern along with factors of anxiety and depression.[33] Besides, the excessive use of internet could be the reason for loneliness among students or loneliness could be the reason for spending more and more time on the internet in search of social support or escape from the real world.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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