Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Mental Health, Information and Being Connected: Experiences of Social Media use during the Covid-19 Pandemic from a Trans-National Survey

Version 1 : Received: 29 April 2021 / Approved: 11 May 2021 / Online: 11 May 2021 (15:43:12 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 28 May 2021 / Approved: 31 May 2021 / Online: 31 May 2021 (23:10:36 CEST)

How to cite: Schoultz, M.; Leung, J.; Bonsaksen, T.; Ruffolo, M.; Thygesen, H.; Price, D.; Geirdal, A.Ø. Mental Health, Information and Being Connected: Experiences of Social Media use during the Covid-19 Pandemic from a Trans-National Survey. Preprints 2021, 2021050253 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202105.0253.v1). Schoultz, M.; Leung, J.; Bonsaksen, T.; Ruffolo, M.; Thygesen, H.; Price, D.; Geirdal, A.Ø. Mental Health, Information and Being Connected: Experiences of Social Media use during the Covid-19 Pandemic from a Trans-National Survey. Preprints 2021, 2021050253 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202105.0253.v1).

Abstract

Background Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict national policies regarding social distancing behavior in Europe, America and Australia, people became reliant on social media as a means for gathering information and a tool for staying connected to family, friends and work. This is the first trans-national study exploring the experiences and challenges of using social media while in lockdown or shelter in place during the current pandemic. Methods This study was part of a wider cross-sectional online survey conducted in Norway, UK, USA and Australia during April/May 2020. The research question was to explore the experiences and challenges of social media users during the Covid-19 pandemic. 3810 people took part in the survey and 1991 responses were included in the analysis . Thematic analysis was conducted independently by two researchers. Results Three overarching themes identified were: Emotional/Mental Health, Information and Being Connected. Participants experienced that using social media during the pandemic amplified anxiety, depression, fear, panic, anger, frustration and loneliness. They felt that there was information overload and social media was full of misleading or polarized opinions from which was difficult to switch off. Nonetheless, participants also thought that there was an urge for connection and learning which was positive and stressful and the same time. Conclusion Using social media while in shelter in place or lockdown could have a negative impact on the emotional and mental health of the population. These findings give a clear insight into practical recommendations for policy and practice on the importance of strengthening mental health care in the community and investing in health workers to support the mental health needs of the public.

Keywords

social media, Covid-19, cross-sectional, trans-national, mental health, loneliness, pandemic

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