Web addiction gets Finnish conscripts out of army

Gamers and other wired loners judged to be so maladapted, the military lets them go home.

HELSINKI--A number of Finnish conscripts have been excused their full term of military service because they are addicted to the Internet, the Finnish Defense Forces said on Tuesday.

Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.

"For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock," said Commander-Captain Jyrki Kivela at the military conscription unit.

"Some of (the conscripts) go to the doctor and say they can't stay," Kivela said. "Sometimes, the doctors have said they have an Internet addiction."

There are no official figures for the Internet-addict dropout rate.

"They get sent home for three years and after that they have to come back and we ask if they are OK," Kivela said. "They will have had time to grow up."

Finland called up 26,500 men in 2003, 9 percent of whom were relieved of duty for medical reasons.

However, the Internet drop-outs have not dented national pride in "sisu," a Finnish quality of being tough and resilient.

"We are very proud of our Finnish men," Kivela said. "Eight-two percent of all Finnish men manage their whole military service."

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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