Factors Influencing Increased Use of Technology to Communicate With Others During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Cross-sectional Web-Based Survey Study

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Abstract

Background: Communication via technology is regarded as an effective way of maintaining social connection and helping individuals to cope with the psychological impact of social distancing measures during a pandemic. However, there is little information about which factors have influenced increased use of technology to communicate with others during lockdowns and whether this has changed over time. Objective: The aim of this study is to explore which psychosocial factors (eg, mental health and employment) and pandemic-related factors (eg, shielding and time) influenced an increase in communication via technology during the first lockdown in the United Kingdom. Methods: A cross-sectional, web-based survey was conducted between April and July 2020, examining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with the pandemic, including communicating more using technology (eg, via messaging, phone, or video). We collected sociodemographic information, employment status, mental health service user status, and depression symptoms. We used hierarchical logistic regression to test which factors were associated with communicating more using technology during the lockdown. Results: Participants (N=1464) were on average 41.07 (SD 14.61) years old, and mostly women (n=1141; 77.9%), White (n=1265; 86.4%), and employed (n=1030; 70.4%). Participants reported a mild level of depression (mean 9.43, SD 7.02), and were communicating more using technology (n=1164; 79.5%). The hierarchical regression indicated that people who were employed and experiencing lower levels of depression were more likely to report increased communication using technology during a lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and over time, men communicated more using technology. Increased use of technology to communicate was related to greater communication and the inability to see others due to the social distancing measures enacted during the lockdown. It was not related to a general increase in technology use during the lockdown. Conclusions: Although most participants reported increased use of technology to communicate during a lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was more apparent in the employed and those experiencing low levels of depression. Moving forward, we should continue to monitor groups who may have been excluded from the benefits of support and communication using technology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31251
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Volume9
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Keywords

  • communication
  • COVID-19
  • cross-sectional
  • demographics
  • depression
  • digital health
  • health technology
  • lockdown
  • mental health
  • pandemic
  • psychosocial
  • social connection
  • social connectivity
  • social interaction
  • survey
  • technology use
  • United Kingdom

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