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A longitudinal study of the effects of internet use on subjective well-being

Authors:
  • Comillas Pontifical University ICAI-ICADE-CIHS

Abstract

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.
... This scale includes seven items asking about different anxiety symptoms in the past 2 weeks, and the respondent selfreport the frequency of symptom occurrence, ranging from 0 (no occurrence in the past 2 weeks) to 3 (happening daily in the past 2 weeks). The measure is a validated metric in a variety of populations and is commonly used in research (Williams, 2014;Paez et al., 2020). In Study 1, both waves of the anxiety scale had high reliability (Cronbach's alpha score of 0.90 at wave one and 0.90 at wave two). ...
... First, we asked participants to estimate the total time per day spent on social media, which instrument has been widely used (Shensa et al., 2017;Paez et al., 2020). The question asked, "on a typical day, about how many hours do you spend using social media?" ...
... Likewise, we relied on self-reported measures of social media usage. Whereas we adopted this measure from prior studies examining social media use (Hill and Zheng, 2018;Paez et al., 2020), we acknowledge that it is subject to personal perceptions, recall error, and may be primed by one's more recent social media usage. Future studies can combine behavioral trace data that objectively record online social interactions with self-reported data to explicate these relationships further. ...
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Background The classic debate regarding the complex relationships between personal network, social media use, and mental well-being requires renewed examination in the novel context of pandemic-related social isolation.Data and methodWe present two surveys conducted at (i) the earlier months of the pandemic and (ii) the end of large scale social-lockdown measures in the U.S. to explore the social and behavioral antecedents of mental health states relating to social media use. Study 1 tracked the longitudinal changes of personal network, social media use, and anxiety level of a group of individuals (N = 147) over a three-month period during the pandemic. Study 2 replicated and extended the theoretical model to a race-representative U.S. adult sample (N = 258).ResultsBoth studies consistently show that (1) more time on social media worsens anxiety. It also mediates the relationship between personal network size and anxiety. That is, a small personal network predicts more social media use, which is in turn related to increased anxiety. (2) Moreover, the effect of social media use on anxiety is mainly explained by news consumption on social media, rather than non-news related usage. (3) This link’s strength is moderated by one’s perception of COVID-19 impact, such that news consumption on social media increases anxiety more when the perceived impact is higher.Conclusion These results demonstrate communication technologies’ increasingly critical and multifaceted role in affecting mental health conditions.
... In China, 17.3% of the adolescents aged below 18 years old reported PIU (China Internet Network Information Center, 2020). This behavior is related to many adverse influences, such as emotional problems, sleep disturbances, and academic failures (Paez et al., 2020;Seo et al., 2016). Wang (2015) found that PIU was negatively linked to academic engagement. ...
... PIU not only affects academic engagement (Seo et al., 2016) but also triggers psychopathological symptoms (Paez et al., 2020), especially during the pandemic (Majumdar et al., 2020). Systematic reviews showed that PIU is related to depression, anxiety, and insomnia in adolescence (Elhai et al., 2017;Mac Cárthaigh et al., 2020). ...
... Systematic reviews showed that PIU is related to depression, anxiety, and insomnia in adolescence (Elhai et al., 2017;Mac Cárthaigh et al., 2020). Longitudinal studies also suggested that PIU or PIU-related variables (e.g., excessive Internet use, problematic smartphone use) predicted later depression (Coyne et al., 2019), anxiety (Paez et al., 2020), and insomnia (Chen and Gau, 2016). According to coping style theory (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984), PIU as a maladaptive coping strategy allows individuals to escape from stressful life events that may curtail their real-life relationships and deprive them of regulation skills, thereby reducing their mental health (Moritz et al., 2016). ...
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Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition of online learning introduces challenges for adolescents to engage in learning. The increased access and persistent Internet use could heighten the risk of problematic Internet use (PIU) that has been increasingly recognized as a risk factor for academic engagement. This study aims to investigate the direct and indirect relationships between PIU and academic engagement through psychopathological symptoms (i.e., depression, anxiety, insomnia) in early, middle, and late adolescence. Methods In all, 4852 adolescents (51.5% females; Mage = 13.80 ± 2.38) from different regions of Chinese mainland participated in the study and completed questionnaires. Results Depression and then insomnia as well as anxiety and then insomnia mediated the relationship between PIU and academic engagement. Anxiety exhibited a double-edged effect, that is, a positive relation with academic engagement directly and a negative relation with academic engagement indirectly through insomnia. Multigroup analyses showed that the indirect effects of PIU on academic engagement through depression and subsequent insomnia in middle and late adolescence were stronger than that in early adolescence, whereas the direct effect in early adolescence was stronger than that in middle adolescence. Limitation This study was cross-sectional in design and relied upon self-report measures. Conclusion These findings improve the understandings of how PIU relates to academic engagement through psychopathological symptoms and highlight developmental differences of adolescence.
... Adolescence is a developmental stage characterized by the presence of high vulnerability and susceptibility [20]. In the face of all these issues, there are a large number of studies [24][25][26][27] that have aimed to analyze the use that adolescents make of the Internet. ...
... [23]. However, other studies have highlighted that, in addition to these risks, one of the major consequences of IPU is social isolation [24][25][26][27]. In other words, studies have shown a direct and positive correlation between the time adolescents spend online and PIU. ...
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Digital media play a fundamental role in the social, emotional, and cognitive development of adolescents, since they involve a very significant use and investment of time at this age. The objectives of this work are twofold: analyze the use of the Internet and digital devices by Spanish young people outside school, and the time they use them and their attitude towards the use of digital devices, as well as to identify the effects of the use of internet and digital devices on social and interpersonal relationships. The sample is composed of 35,943 students of Compulsory Secondary Education, from different Spanish high schools that participated in the PISA 2018 Report. The data provided by this study confirm the widespread consumption of digital devices. Identified as actions that they carry out every day were: the use of online chat, use of social networks to contact their friends, and surfing the internet for fun. Regarding the attitude towards digital devices, the participants say they feel comfortable using digital devices and discovering new applications or games. However, we also found as one of the most relevant results of this study the fact that participants say they feel bad if they do not have internet connection.
... Cuihong and Chengzhi [166] found that internet use had no significant impact on the well-being of individuals compared to non-use. Although other research agrees that internet use alone does not significantly affect SWB (e.g., [166,167]), there are differing opinions about how it is affected by the intensity of internet use. For example, Cuihong and Chengzhi [166] also found frequency of internet usage significantly improved SWB, Peng et al. [168] reported that intensive internet use is significantly associated with lower levels of SWB, and Paez et al. [167] found that frequency of internet use was not associated with lower SWB. ...
... Although other research agrees that internet use alone does not significantly affect SWB (e.g., [166,167]), there are differing opinions about how it is affected by the intensity of internet use. For example, Cuihong and Chengzhi [166] also found frequency of internet usage significantly improved SWB, Peng et al. [168] reported that intensive internet use is significantly associated with lower levels of SWB, and Paez et al. [167] found that frequency of internet use was not associated with lower SWB. Some researchers have also studied the effects of using social network sites rather than the internet in general, and the results of these studies are also contradictory. ...
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Policymakers and researchers worldwide are interested in measuring the subjective well-being (SWB) of populations. In recent years, new approaches to measuring SWB have begun to appear, using digital traces as the main source of information, and show potential to overcome the shortcomings of traditional survey-based methods. In this paper, we propose the formal model for calculation of observable subjective well-being (OSWB) indicator based on posts from a social network, which utilizes demographic information and post-stratification techniques to make the data sample representative by selected characteristics of the general population. We applied the model on the data from Odnoklassniki, one of the largest social networks in Russia, and obtained an OSWB indicator representative of the population of Russia by age and gender. For sentiment analysis, we fine-tuned several language models on RuSentiment and achieved state-of-the-art results. The calculated OSWB indicator demonstrated moderate to strong Pearson’s (r=0.733, p=0.007, n=12) correlation and strong Spearman’s (rs=0.825, p=0.001, n=12) correlation with a traditional survey-based Happiness Index reported by Russia Public Opinion Research Center, confirming the validity of the proposed approach. Additionally, we explored circadian (24 h) and circaseptan (7 day) patterns, and report several interesting findings for the population of Russia. Firstly, daily variations were clearly observed: the morning had the lowest level of happiness, and the late evening had the highest. Secondly, weekly patterns were clearly observed as well, with weekends being happier than weekdays. The lowest level of happiness occurs in the first three weekdays, and starting on Thursday, it rises and peaks during the weekend. Lastly, demographic groups showed different levels of happiness on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, which confirms the importance of post-stratification by age group and gender in OSWB studies based on digital traces.
... However, a consensus on the effects of internet use on the well-being of individuals has not yet been reached. The use of the internet could be conceived as part of a set of diverse contributory antecedents and functions related to well-being [32]. Some studies have found that, the more time one spends on the internet and on using instant messages, the more likely they are to be associated with high levels of depression, loneliness, and a decrease in happiness [33][34][35]. ...
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During the past decades, the number of rural–urban migrants has dramatically increased in China. Their well-being is important for social development and has attracted the attention of researchers. This paper adopts five waves of repeated cross-sectional datasets within a nine-year span, included in the Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS 2010–2018), to evaluate the impacts and mechanisms of internet adoption on the health status and subjective well-being of rural–urban migrants. Empirical results suggest that there are significant positive correlations between internet adoption and health status as well as subjective well-being. The results of structural equation modeling suggest that the impact of the internet on well-being occurs through increasing, bridging, and bonding social capital for rural–urban migrants. The mediating impact of bonding social capital on subjective well-being is more prominent, while the mediating impact of bridging social capital on health is stronger. Furthermore, we have explored the heterogeneous effects across gender and education. This is an early study which investigates such an important topic in the context of the digital era.
... Another possibility would be that the causal relationship would be in the opposite direction: those users who have less offline support would tend to spend more time in social VR (in line with the internet replacement hypothesis; cf. Paez et al., 2020). However, the cross-sectional design of our study does not allow us to elucidate this issue. ...
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Social virtual reality (social VR) platforms are gaining popularity among users. Previous qualitative research suggests that feelings of presence can make these platforms an attractive environment to obtain social support from others. Building on these exploratory insights, we carried out a quantitative study to illuminate how different types of presence in social VR platforms facilitate social support. The results of a large survey conducted among users (N = 1231) show that feelings of social presence and self-presence are predictors of perceived social support and that this perception of social support is positively associated with users' subjective well-being. Perceived social support is greater for women than for men, and it differs across platforms, although with small effect sizes. These results underline the role of presence in the perception of computer-mediated social support, suggesting that the affordances of social VR make it a particularly well-suited medium for facilitating beneficial interactions among users.
... Studies have begun to explore the mechanism of action in the relationship between social mentality and subjective well-being [30]. The study found that an excellent social mentality strengthens the positive effect of physical exercise and internet use on youth's subjective well-being [31,32]. ...
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Youth subjective well-being is enhanced not only from physical exercise but also from internet use. Based on the 2017 China General Social Survey (CGSS) data, the Bootstrap method was used to examine the mechanisms of the effects of physical exercise and internet use on youth subjective well-being. In this study, the questionnaire data of 619 Chinese young people (18–35 years old) were selected as the sample source. It was found that physical exercise (2.881 ± 1.352) and internet use (4.544 ± 0.756) had positive effects on youth subjective well-being (88.762 ± 11.793). Life satisfaction (2.253 ± 0.826) partially mediated the development of physical exercise and internet use on subjective well-being, with indirect effects of 34.1% and 30.4%, respectively. A social mindset (10.181 ± 1.966) played a moderating role in the relationship between physical exercise and youth subjective well-being and internet use and youth subjective well-being in both groups. The positive effects of physical exercise and internet use on youth subjective well-being gradually increased with the improvement in social mindset. This study revealed the mechanisms of physical activity and internet use on subjective well-being and that life satisfaction and the social mindset of youth are essential factors influencing subjective well-being.
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