Past literature offered competing predictions of the effect of broadband Internet on suicide. The Internet facilitates suicide by providing suicide-related information and ruining mental health. In contrast, Internet prevents suicide by offering social interaction and online mental treatment. This study aims to solve this tension by empirically examining the effect of broadband Internet on suicide with large-scale panel set.
This study takes instrument approach with the US county-level panel set for the period 2013–17. This study uses the number of household broadband Internet subscriptions as the measure of broadband and leverages the number of telecommunication carriers as an instrument to address concern for endogenous relationship.
There exists a positive and significant association between broadband Internet adoption and suicide on average. This study provides empirical evidence that this association is attributable to the Internet's role in leading to a general decline in the mental well-being and in providing suicide-relevant information. This association is more evident in areas with high poverty and low social capital.
This study contributes to literatures that address the dark side of information systems in general and that address how Internet adoption can influence public health and well-being in particular. Results of underlying mechanisms why Internet affects suicide, and heterogeneous effect of Internet by poverty and social capital provide insight for governments to enact proactive regulations to address continuing rise of suicide.
Kyung, N., Lim, S. and Lee, B. (2021), "Digital self-harm: an empirical analysis of the effects of broadband adoption on suicide", Internet Research, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 1444-1462. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-04-2020-0171
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