COVID-19 pandemic and its related containment measures have been associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the general population. While the use of digital media has been greatly promoted by national governments and international authorities to maintain social contacts and healthy lifestyle behaviors, its increased access may also bear the risk of inappropriate or excessive use of internet-related resources. The present study, part of the COVID Mental hEalth Trial (COMET) study, aims at investigating the possible relationship between social isolation, the use of digital resources and the development of their problematic use. A cross sectional survey was carried out to explore the prevalence of internet addiction, excessive use of social media, problematic video gaming and binge watching, during Italian phase II (May-June 2020) and III (June-September 2020) of the pandemic in 1385 individuals (62.5% female, mean age 32.5 ± 12.9) mainly living in Central Italy (52.4%). Data were stratified according to phase II/III and three groups of Italian regions (northern, central and southern). Compared to the larger COMET study, most participants exhibited significant higher levels of severe-to-extremely-severe depressive symptoms (46.3% vs. 12.4%; p < 0.01) and extremely severe anxiety symptoms (77.8% vs. 7.5%; p < 0.01). We also observed a rise in problematic internet use and excessive gaming over time. Mediation analyses revealed that COVID-19-related general psychopathology, stress, anxiety, depression and social isolation play a significant role in the emergence of problematic internet use, social media addiction and problematic video gaming. Professional gamers and younger subjects emerged as sub-populations particularly at risk of developing digital addictions. If confirmed in larger and more homogenous samples, our findings may help in shedding light on possible preventive and treatment strategies for digital addictions.

COVID-19-Related Social Isolation Predispose to Problematic Internet and Online Video Gaming Use in Italy

Luciano M.;Sampogna G.;Giallonardo V.;Giannelli L.;Mugnolo A.;Fiorillo A.
2022

Abstract

COVID-19 pandemic and its related containment measures have been associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the general population. While the use of digital media has been greatly promoted by national governments and international authorities to maintain social contacts and healthy lifestyle behaviors, its increased access may also bear the risk of inappropriate or excessive use of internet-related resources. The present study, part of the COVID Mental hEalth Trial (COMET) study, aims at investigating the possible relationship between social isolation, the use of digital resources and the development of their problematic use. A cross sectional survey was carried out to explore the prevalence of internet addiction, excessive use of social media, problematic video gaming and binge watching, during Italian phase II (May-June 2020) and III (June-September 2020) of the pandemic in 1385 individuals (62.5% female, mean age 32.5 ± 12.9) mainly living in Central Italy (52.4%). Data were stratified according to phase II/III and three groups of Italian regions (northern, central and southern). Compared to the larger COMET study, most participants exhibited significant higher levels of severe-to-extremely-severe depressive symptoms (46.3% vs. 12.4%; p < 0.01) and extremely severe anxiety symptoms (77.8% vs. 7.5%; p < 0.01). We also observed a rise in problematic internet use and excessive gaming over time. Mediation analyses revealed that COVID-19-related general psychopathology, stress, anxiety, depression and social isolation play a significant role in the emergence of problematic internet use, social media addiction and problematic video gaming. Professional gamers and younger subjects emerged as sub-populations particularly at risk of developing digital addictions. If confirmed in larger and more homogenous samples, our findings may help in shedding light on possible preventive and treatment strategies for digital addictions.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11591/466941
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