This commentary considers a recent debate paper which presents and counters 10 work addiction myths. I reflect upon the proposal to move the field forward by distinguishing between, work addiction, which denotes a clinical phenomenon; and workaholism, a term used by the occupational psychology literature with little agreement about its defining dimensions beyond working compulsively. Rather than choosing between these two terms, I argue that addiction experts should lead a transdisciplinary integration of findings from studies where participants report both working compulsively and experiencing significant conflict. I also stress the importance of understanding the macro factors underlying this particular addiction.
Authors:Cristina Quinones and Nada Korak Kakabadse
Background and Aims
Compulsive Internet Use (CIU) describes a maladaptive relationship with the Internet characterised by loss of control and conflict. Although also affecting adults, most studies use teenage samples, and theoretical development on risk factors is scarce. According to Davis (2001), the social connectivity function of the Internet is key in identifying traits associated with CIU. Since Self-Concept Clarity (SCC) is strongly related to social anxiety, and virtual interactions allow “self-edition”, we hypothesized that individuals low in SCC could choose virtual interactions as safer alternative to satisfy their social needs. This could in turn increase the risk of CIU. Building on a previous study, we also expected CIU to be more harmful in the unemployed.
We collected samples from the UK (N = 532) and US (N = 502) with equal distribution of employed and unemployed individuals. We ran Measurement Invariance tests to confirm that the constructs were equivalent across countries. Subsequently, we conducted mediation and moderation analysis to test our hypothesis with Multigroup Confirmatory Factor Analysis.
Measurement Invariance was confirmed. The relationship between SCC and CIU was partially mediated by preference of virtual interactions in both countries. This preference was significantly related to lower social support. Short term unemployment seemed to accentuate the negative impact of CIU on life satisfaction in both countries, although only marginally significantly in the US. The unemployed reported significantly lower levels of life satisfaction.
We demonstrated that SCC is a key vulnerability factor to CIU in adults, and confirmed the additional risks for the unemployed.
Compulsive Internet use (CIU) refers to those individuals who experience a loss of control regarding their online use. Although suffered by a minority, a much larger proportion of adults report to be experiencing early signs of CIU, which can become more problematic if sustained over time, especially when used as a coping mechanism for stress. Since compulsive behaviors are characterized by executing behaviors on “automatic pilot,” mindfulness techniques, which help individuals relate more consciously with their environment, could help develop a more adaptive relationship with technology. However, mindfulness interventions are often lengthy hence not ideal for busy individuals with early signs of CIU.
This study tested the effectiveness of a brief mindfulness intervention (10 min a day for 2 weeks) to reduce CIU and anxiety and depression symptoms, in relation to an equivalent length classic arousal descending technique (i.e., gradual-muscle-relaxation), and a wait-list control group.
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was used with assessments at pre- and post-phases. Participants showing initial signs of CIU were allocated to a mindfulness-group (n = 343), gradual-relaxation (n = 301), or a wait-list control group (n = 350).
The mindfulness and gradual-muscle-relaxation participants were equally effective in reducing anxiety and depression. The mindfulness intervention was more effective reducing CIU symptoms.
Given the large sample sizes of this RCT, these results are promising, although follow-up studies are needed. Considering health hazards of the “always-on-culture” and the popularity of bite-sized learning, the effectiveness of easy-to fit-in daily life health practices is a positive development.