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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 11:38 GMT
200,000 net porn addicts in US
The estimate is a conservative one
Estimate is a conservative one
At least 200,000 US internet users are hooked on porn sites or X-rated chat rooms, researchers have found.

This is pointing to a huge number we can't ignore

Mark Wiederhold
It also appears that compulsives have more problems with relationships and jobs than surfers who visit sex sites on a casual basis.

Psychologists from Stanford and Duquesne universities conducted the study, one of the first to estimate the number of "cybersex compulsives".

"This is a hidden public health hazard exploding, in part, because very few are recognising it as such or taking it seriously," the team said.

The study appears in the March issue of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity.

11 hours a week

The researchers classified users as cybersex compulsives if they spent more than 11 hours a week visiting sexually-oriented areas and scored high on a 10-item questionnaire about relationships and attitudes toward sex.

Past studies examined how many people visited porn sites and how much time they spent there. But very few studies have attempted to estimate the number of compulsives, said Mark Wiederhold, a professor at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego.

He called the conclusions conservative, but significant, "pointing to a huge number we can't ignore".

The study was conducted in the spring of 1998 and given the surge in internet usage since then, the current number of cybersex compulsives is likely to be much higher than 200,000.

Aged 18 to 90

For the survey, visitors to the MSNBC news site were asked to complete a questionnaire - more than 13,500 did. However, the self-selection involved means the group may not accurately represent all web users.

The researchers ignored incomplete responses or multiple questionnaires that appeared to come from the same individual. They kept 9,265 surveys from respondents aged 18 to 90.

Only 96 of these people, or about 1%, fitted the researchers' definition for being cybersex compulsive. Applying that percentage to the 20 million people visiting sexual sites each month, the researchers came up with the figure of 200,000.

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30 Sep 99 |  Health
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23 Aug 99 |  Sci/Tech
Caught in the Net
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