Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland internet users still lag behind rest of UK despite biggest rise

By Adrian Rutherford

One in eight adults in Northern Ireland have never used the internet.

Some 12.8% of people here say they have yet to venture online - well above the UK-wide figure of 8.4%.

The details emerged in data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It found internet use among adults in the UK continues to rise, with almost every 16 to 34-year-old having been online in 2018.

The ONS report shows that 99% of 16 to 34-year-olds have used the internet this year, while 90% of all adults in the UK have used the internet in the last three months.

In Northern Ireland, 85.6% of adults had gone online in that time. We had the largest increase in recent internet use, adults who have used the internet in the last three months, since 2011.

That is a rise of 17%, although we still had the lowest proportion of recent internet users (86%) compared to other parts of the UK.

But as the number of internet users rises, some experts have warned of the dangers of becoming addicted to being online.

An addiction treatment firm said one in three of its patients this year have been treated for an internet-based illness.

The ease of access to the internet today is sparking addiction in users, UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) said.

Dr Mateen Durrani (right), a general adult psychiatrist at UKAT, said: "Internet use is as normal as breathing for almost all adults in the UK.

"But the addictive nature of it is a new phenomenon which has only come to the attention of mental health professionals recently.

"Those affected would display primacy of internet usage over basic day-to-day needs, feelings of irritability, anxiety and/or depression if unable to access the internet, argumentative behaviour, telling lies and increased social isolation.

"Recovery from internet addiction cannot be achieved through abstinence; it is not something we encourage patients to go 'cold turkey' from. Focus should be on moderation and controlled use."

Dr Durrani added: "Many adults have healthy relationships with the internet, but some people are overusing and are ultimately becoming dependent.

"Unfortunately, with internet addiction, we fear that the worst is yet to come - especially for the younger and future generations."

The figures - gathered between January and March this year - also showed that 8.4% of UK adults in 2018 have never used the internet.

This figure is down from 9.2% last year but still equates to more than 4.5 million adults in the UK.

The ONS statistics also showed a narrowing generation gap when it came to recent internet use, with 44% of those aged 75 and older having used the internet this year, compared with just 20% in 2011.

According to the data, just over 80% of those in the 65 to 74 age group were recent internet users, closing the gap on younger age groups.

The data also found that 20% of disabled people have also never been online, dropping from 22% last year.

Belfast Telegraph

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