According to new research led by Saint James School of Medicine investigators, an increase in screen time among young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with an increase in pandemic-related distress. The study’s findings were presented at the World Microbe Forum. Increased time spent watching entertainment on a screen was associated with an increase in anxiety scores both prior to and during the pandemic.
In terms of pandemic-related distress, students outperformed non-students. Surprisingly, the findings indicated no association between depression and screen time use, despite previous research indicating such associations. The findings will be presented at the World Microbe Forum, which will take place online from June 20 to 24. “This study demonstrates that the pandemic affected people not only physically, but also emotionally and psychologically, with some groups being impacted more than others,” said Michelle Wiciak, the study’s presenting author and an M.D. candidate at Saint James School of Medicine. “It reaffirms the critical need for mental health support during trying times.”
Almost half of the participants had mild to moderate depression, and more than 70% had mild to severe depression. Seventy percent of participants reported mild to severe anxiety, and slightly more than 30% met potential criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder according to the DSM-IV-TR (PTSD). Two hundred ninety-four responses were gathered and validated using the surveys’ inclusion/exclusion criteria. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 28.
Gender differences in screen time use were not observed. Nonetheless, there were gender differences in the average COVID-19 scores for depression, anxiety, and distress. “This study is unique in that it examined mental health status in relation to screen time,” Wiciak explained. Additionally, the authors gathered data from a variety of countries.
“Since the pandemic shifted work and education online, we wanted to gain a better understanding of the impact of that transition. We did discover unexpected findings, which may pave the way for future research and various protective factors that can be critical for maintaining a person’s health during turbulent times “Wiciak was added.
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