A longitudinal study of the effects of internet use on subjective well-being
This study examined how internet use is related to subjective well-being, using longitudinal data from 19 nations with representative online samples stratified for age, gender, and region (N = 7122, 51.43% women, Mage= 45.26). Life satisfaction and anxiety served as indices of subjective well-being at time 1 (t1) and then six months later (t2). Frequency of internet use (hours online per day) at t1 correlated with lower life satisfaction, r = – .06, and more anxiety, r = .13 at t2. However, after imposing multivariate controls, frequency of internet use (t1) was no longer associated with lower subjective well-being (t2). Frequency of social contact by internet and use of internet for following rumors (t1) predicted higher anxiety (t2). Higher levels of direct (face-to-face plus phone) social contact (t1) predicted greater life satisfaction (t2). In multivariate analyses, all effect sizes were small. Society-level individualism-collectivism or indulgence-restraint did not show a direct effect on outcomes nor moderate individual-level associations. Results are discussed in the framework of the internet as a displacement of social contact versus a replacement of deficits in direct contact; and as a source of positive and negative information.