Digital practices by citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic: findings from an international multisite study

Hannah Ramsden Marston, Pei-Chun Ko, Vishnunarayan Girishan Prabhu, Shannon Freeman, Christopher Ross, Iryna Sharaievska, Matthew HEM Browning, Sarah Earle, Loredana Ivan, Rubal Kanozia, Halime Öztürk Çalıkoğlu, Hasan Arslan, Burcu Bilir-Koca, Paula Alexandra Silva, Sandra Buttigieg, Franziska Großschädl, Gerhilde Schüttengruber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic brought digital practices and engagement to the forefront of society, which were based on behavioral changes associated with adhering to different government mandates. Further behavioral changes included transitioning from working in the office to working from home, with the use of various social media and communication platforms to maintain a level of social connectedness, especially given that many people who were living in different types of communities, such as rural, urban, and city spaces, were socially isolated from friends, family members, and community groups. Although there is a growing body of research exploring how technology is being used by people, there is limited information and insight about the digital practices employed across different age cohorts living in different physical spaces and residing in different countries. Objective: This paper presents the findings from an international multisite study exploring the impact of social media and the internet on the health and well-being of individuals in different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Data were collected via a series of online surveys deployed between April 4, 2020, and September 30, 2021. The age of respondents varied from 18 years to over 60 years across the 3 regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. On exploring the associations of technology use, social connectedness, and sociodemographic factors with loneliness and well-being through bivariate and multivariate analyses, significant differences were observed. Results: The levels of loneliness were higher among respondents who used social media messengers or many social media apps than among those who did not use social media messengers or used ≤1 social media app. Additionally, the levels of loneliness were higher among respondents who were not members of an online community support group than among those who were members of an online community support group. Psychological well-being was significantly lower and loneliness was significantly higher among people living in small towns and rural areas than among those living in suburban and urban communities. Younger respondents (18-29 years old), single adults, unemployed individuals, and those with lower levels of education were more likely to experience loneliness. Conclusions: From an international and interdisciplinary perspective, policymakers and stakeholders should extend and explore interventions targeting loneliness experienced by single young adults and further examine how this may vary across geographies. The study findings have implications across the fields of gerontechnology, health sciences, social sciences, media communication, computers, and information technology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41304
Number of pages18
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • communication
  • community living
  • COVID-19
  • gerontology
  • social media
  • technology

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