Bhutan’s Internet Addiction Rate Among The Highest In The Southeast Asian Region


According to a study conducted by a team of doctors, at least four out of 10 adolescents are addicted to the internet in Bhutan.

Buddhist monks with a laptop in Phuentsholing, Bhutan. (Source: Larivista Culturale)


By Phurpa Lhamo | Kuensel

At least four out of 10 adolescents are addicted to the internet in Bhutan, according to a study conducted by a team of doctors.

The study was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Medical and Health Sciences that ended on November 11 in Thimphu.

This translates into about 40 percent of the high school-going adolescents who are addicted to the internet in the country.

The research was conducted on 721 school-going adolescents from class IX-XII in 12 selected schools — six central schools and six day-scholar schools in the country.

The study done between May and November last year showed that while 38 percent of these adolescents suffer from moderate addiction, two percent were severe internet addicts.

The dire consequences of internet addiction

Internet addiction refers to the compulsive need to spend a lot of time on the Internet, to the point where relationships, work and health suffer.

People who are addicted to the internet often experience negative emotions or withdrawal symptoms when their Internet access is restricted.

Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan’s (KGUMSB)’s Deputy Dean of Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine, Dr Karma Tenzin said that depression and anxiety were the associated psychological co-morbidities among internet addicts. 

He added that while it could not be said whether the addiction actually caused depression and stress, the study showed that people who were addicted were depressed and stressed.


Children using a computer in Bhutan

Source: Thinley Choden


“The addiction rate in Bhutan is among the highest in the Southeast Asian region.”

Internet use in the country was at 75 percent in 2017, which is also the highest in the region while mobile subscription stands at 92 percent.

The study showed that boredom, stress or anxiety and peer pressure were some of the key triggers of internet use.

Dr Karma Tenzin also said that Internet facility at home, use of smartphones, social networking, and night-time use were associated with Internet addiction.

He added that internet addiction affected academic performance and led to sleeplessness due to irregular sleeping patterns.

The study showed that 79 percent of those studied used internet for education, 57 percent for social networking and 29 percent for gaming.

Factors associated with internet addiction

According to the study, urban residence, internet facility at home, use of smartphone, social networking, night-time use, use in hostel and other psychological co-morbidities such as depression and stress were significantly associated with internet addiction.

Dr Karma Tenzin said that the factors identified to be associated with internet addiction and the user’s perspective on internet use provided valuable information that could be used in designing preventive intervention measures.

“The role of teachers and parents is crucial in monitoring a child’s internet use and educating them about its hazards through a structured curriculum.”

The research paper is to be submitted to an international journal for publication. Moreover, the team of researchers also plans to involve and engage with relevant stakeholders to come up with the necessary interventions. 


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.


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