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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLES
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-5

The effect of social media on awareness and mental health of people during COVID-19 pandemic


Department of Community Medicine, Bharati Vidyapeeth DTU Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission02-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance20-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication19-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Sanjivani Vishwanath Patil
E-204, Lake Vista, Jambhulwadi Road, Ambegaon, Pune - 411 046, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/DYPJ.DYPJ_40_21

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  Abstract 

Background: The lockdown and the pandemic has caused a lot of mental health problems and social media exposure plays a major role in it. At present, many myths about coronavirus transmission and prevention are being circulated through social media. Objectives: 1. The objective of this study was to assess the awareness of COVID-19 among social media users2. To assess the prevalence of mental health problems using Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Scale and WHO-5 Well-Being Index and its association with social media exposure. Materials and Methods: An observational, cross-sectional study was conducted online. Participants were invited to take part in online survey using various social media platforms. Validated semi-structured questionnaire tool was used to collect data. Mental health status was assessed using the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Scale and WHO-5 Well-Being Index. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were applied for adjusted odds ratio (OR) of outcome variables with different risk factors. Results: A total of 27 (9.93%) study participants suffered from acute stress disorder. A total of 118 (43.38%) study participants suffered from depression. Multivariate analyses found that adjusted odds of acute stress disorders were greater among those aged more than 60 years (Adj OR = 1.08), more in females (Adj OR = 1.31) as compared to males, and those with higher secondary education (Adj OR = 1.73). Depression was significantly more among individuals who either spent all or more than half of their time reading about COVID-19. Conclusions: Study findings indicate a need to pay more attention to mental health among the general population while combating with COVID-19.

Keywords: Acute stress disorders, awareness of COVID-19, depression, social media exposure


How to cite this article:
Anand PU, Patil SV, Deshmukh RB. The effect of social media on awareness and mental health of people during COVID-19 pandemic. D Y Patil J Health Sci 2022;10:1-5

How to cite this URL:
Anand PU, Patil SV, Deshmukh RB. The effect of social media on awareness and mental health of people during COVID-19 pandemic. D Y Patil J Health Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 6];10:1-5. Available from: http://www.dypatiljhs.com/text.asp?2022/10/1/1/356514




  Introduction Top


COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, by WHO.[1] A total number of active cases recorded in India so far are 572,994.[2]

The lockdown began in India on March 15, 2020. “Work-from-home” became the new “normal.” People started seeking the company of media sources such as TV and Internet. The panic spread through social media is more extensive than COVID-19.[3] Being in quarantine and isolation has been reported to increase incidences of mental health disorders,[4],[5] as well as of posttraumatic stress disorder, depicted by another study.[6] Society changes its outlook toward them.[7] This can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety in some. At present, many myths about coronavirus transmission and prevention are being circulated. Hence, the present study addressed awareness of COVID-19 among social media users.

Uncertain prognoses, imposition of public health measures affecting freedoms, and large and growing financial losses are among the major stressors that increased the risk for psychiatric illness. During pandemic in addition to medical care, health-care providers have to address psychosocial needs of patients and public.[8] Discrimination and stigma associated with the disease can increase disease transmission and infection severity among people already dealing with mental health disorders.[9] Considering this, the present study was conducted to assess the effect of social media on awareness and prevalence of mental health problems and its association with social media exposure during COVID-19 pandemic.


  Materials and Methods Top


Study design and participants

This observational, cross-sectional study was conducted online during June 2020. The sample size estimation was based on the study of Gao et al.[10] Considering the prevalence of 46%, assuming allowable error as 15% of prevalence, using 95% of confidence, and 5% level of significance, the calculated minimum sample size was 203. Participants which are age >18 years, willing to give consent, understand English language, and social media users were included in the present study.

Measurements

Two major mental disorders – depression and anxiety stress disorder – were assessed in the current study. Acute stress disorders and depression were assessed using Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire scoring guide[11] and WHO-5 Well-Being Index (WHO-5),[12] respectively. For acute stress disorder diagnosis, presence of at least three symptoms out of the five types of dissociative symptoms, 1 re-experiencing symptom, 1 avoidance symptom, and 1 marked anxiety/increased arousal symptom is required. If a circled response is 3 or more, the symptom is considered as present. WHO-5 Well-Being Index has five statements, participants rate the scale, i.e., all of the time = 5, most of the time = 4, more than half of the time = 3, less than half of the time = 2, some of the time = 1, and at no time = 0 (in relation to the past 2 weeks). The total score (0–25) was multiplied by 4 to get the final score, 0 indicates the worst imaginable well-being and 100 indicates the best imaginable well-being.

Social media exposure was assessed by asking how often respondents were exposed to information/news about COVID-19 on social media. Responses recorded were as all the time, more than half of the time, often (less than half of the time), rarely, and no time.

Tools for data collection – validated semi-structured questionnaire tool was used to collect data.

Data collection

Ethical committee permission was obtained. Participants were invited to take part in an online survey created using Google Forms which was circulated using social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and e-mail. All participants were encouraged to forward the link further to their friends and family. Participants were required to fill up an informed consent before they could answer the questions which were embedded in the Google Form. Information obtained from the participants included demographic details, awareness on COVID-19, and mental health status of participants, which was assessed using the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Scale and WHO-5 Well-Being Index. Results obtained were then used to correlate the impact of social media on awareness and mental health of people.

Statistical analysis

The data were analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 25.0 (IBM, Chicago, IL, USA). For continuous variables, the results were shown by descriptive statistics and for categorical variables, frequency and percentages were calculated. Group comparison was done using Chi-square test for categorical variables. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were applied for adjusted odds ratio (OR) of outcome variables with different risk factors. Throughout results, 5% level of significance was used and all results are shown with 95% of confidence. P value of 0.05 was considered significant.


  Results Top


Of all the 272 participants that took part in the study, minimum age of study participants was 18 years and maximum was 86 years. The mean age was 31.48 years (±15.035 standard deviation). Sociodemographic details of study participants are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Sociodemographic profile of study participants

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Details about awareness of COVID 19 are shown in [Table 2]. More than 90% of the participants believed that patients with COVID-19 commonly present with cough, breathlessness, and fever. When inquired about preventive measures, more than 90% of them believe that wearing masks and gloves, social distancing, covering the mouth or nose while talking or sneezing, and washing the hands with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer are effective in preventing the disease.
Table 2: Awareness about COVID-19 among social media users

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Details of acute stress disorder and social media exposure are given in [Table 3]. A total of 27 (9.93%) study participants suffered from acute stress disorder. It was found to be more among males. It was significantly more among those who used to spend all or more than half of their time reading about COVID-19. In univariate analysis, it was found that acute stress disorders were significantly more among those with high social media exposure (all the time or more than half of the time) (OR = 3.38, confidence interval [CI] = 1.06–10.73, P = 0.038). Multivariate analyses found that that the adjusted odds of acute stress disorders were greater among those aged more than 60 years (Adj OR = 1.08), more in females (Adj OR = 1.31) as compared to males, and those with higher secondary education (Adj OR = 1.73). Acute stress was also found to be increased in currently working or employed (Adj OR = 4.16) than not working or students. Frequent social media exposure increased the adjusted odds of acute stress as compared with rare usage after controlling for all covariates (P < 0.05).
Table 3: Multivariate analysis: acute stress disorders among social media users

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As given in [Table 4], a total of 118 (43.38%) study participants suffered from depression. 45.95% of participants with depression were between 30 and 60 years of age. Depression was found to be significantly higher in females as compared to males (P < 0.05). Fifty percent of participants that reported depression were found to be unemployed and 46.55% were students. Depression was significantly more among individuals who either spent all or more than half of their time reading about COVID-19. The prevalence of depression was found to be higher in those with diploma. In univariate analysis, it was found that depression was significantly more among females (OR = 1.75, CI = 1.07–2.88, P = 0.025) and those with high social media exposure (all the time or more than half of the time) (OR = 3.81, CI = 1.53–9.45, P = 0.003). Multivariate analyses found that the adjusted odds of depression were greater among students or currently working individuals and those with higher secondary education and diploma. Females were found to be more depressed than males (Adj OR = 1.88, P = 0.03). Higher frequency of social media exposure was significantly positive associated with the adjusted odds of depression after controlling for all covariates (Adj OR = 3.19, P = 0.014).
Table 4: Multivariate analysis: Depression among social media users

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  Discussion Top


According to the recent National Mental Health Survey of India, the overall prevalence of depression was 2.7%, and for neurotic and stress-related disorder, it was 3.5%. When compared with national data,[13] this cross-sectional study found a much higher prevalence of acute stress disorder (9.93%) and depression (43.38%) during COVID-19 pandemic. It shows that there is a considerable amount of increment in the anxiety and depression among social media users as compared to the general population which can be due to lockdown resulting in social isolation. Recently, an article was published by Yao et al. clearly pointed out that the loss of freedom, boredom, separation from loved ones over disease status, and so much uncertainty can be disturbing and unfavorable for psychological well-being.[9]

When examined across the genders, it was found that females were nearly twice as likely as males to have current experience of neurotic and stress-related disorders (4.3% for females vs. 2.7% for males) in National Mental Health Survey.[13] The current study revealed that depression was significantly more among females. Increase domestic workload and financial stress might have contributed to this.

In our study, 90% of study participants were aware of all modes of transmission which is similar to a study done by Dkhar et al. among social media users.[14] The current cross-sectional study established that social media exposure plays an important role when considering the prevalence of acute stress disorder and depression during COVID-19 outbreak in India. Similarly, in a study during COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, the prevalence of depression and anxiety was found to be 48% and 23%, respectively. Moreover, 82% of participants who were frequently exposed to social media reported high odds of anxiety and depression.[10] This highlights the fact of social media usage and its influence on mental health during lockdown when quarantine and social distancing are absolutely necessary. There is a need to increase awareness among the public while dealing with the present unprecedented situation. India being home to millions of homeless, special measures need to be undertaken to control transmission among them. Awareness about social distancing norms, early diagnosis, and treatment can help to reduce disease transmission and associated mental health illnesses.[15] A review study on the psychological impact of quarantine suggested stressors to be longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma which had negative psychological impact leading to more confusion, stress, and anger.[16]


  Conclusions Top


Our study findings showed a high prevalence of mental health problems, which was significantly associated with social media exposure during the COVID-19 outbreak. It indicates the need to pay more attention to mental health among the general population while combating pandemic. It is also important to monitor and filter out false information on social media and promoting accurate information. Authentic information can be availed on official websites which are updated regularly.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
WHO. WHO Director-General’s Statement on IHR Emergency Committee on Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Available from: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-statement-on-ihr-emergency-committee-on-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov). [Last accessed on 2021 Jul 1].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in. [Last accessed on 2021 Jun 28].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Wilson ME, Chen LH Travelers give wings to novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). J Travel Med2020;27:taaa015.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Torales J, O’Higgins M, Castaldelli-Maia JM, Ventriglio A The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on global mental health. Int J Soc Psychiatry 2020;66:317-20.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Bai Y, Lin CC, Lin CY, Chen JY, Chue CM, Chou P Survey of stress reactions among health care workers involved with the SARS outbreak. Psychiatr Serv 2004;55:1055-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Wu P, Fang Y, Guan Z, Fan B, Kong J, Yao Z, et al. The psychological impact of the SARS epidemic on hospital employees in China: Exposure, risk perception, and altruistic acceptance of risk. Can J Psychiatry 2009;54:302-11.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Rajkumar RP COVID-19 and mental health: A review of the existing literature. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;52:102066.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Pfefferbaum B, North CS Mental health and the Covid-19 pandemic. N Engl J Med 2020;383:510-2.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Yao H, Chen JH, Xu YF Patients with mental health disorders in the COVID-19 epidemic. Lancet Psychiatry 2020;7:e21.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Gao J, Zheng P, Jia Y, Chen H, Mao Y, Chen S, et al. Mental health problems and social media exposure during COVID-19 outbreak. PLoS One 2020;15:e0231924.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Cardena E, Koopman C, Classen C, Waelde LC, Spiegel D Psycometric properties of the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire (SASRQ): A valid and reliable measure of acute stress. J Trauma Stress 2000;13:719-34.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe. Wellbeing measures in primary health care/the DepCare Project: report on a WHO meeting: Stockholm, Sweden, 12–13 February 1998. World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe. Available from: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/349766. [Last accessed on 2021 Jun 20].  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Gururaj G, Varghese M, Benegal V, Rao GN, Pathak K, Singh LK; NMHS Collaborators Group. National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16: Prevalence, patterns and outcomes. Bengaluru: National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, NIMHANS Publication No. 129; 2016. Available from: http://indianmhs.nimhans.ac.in/Docs/Report2.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Jun 21].  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Dkhar SA, Quansar R, Saleem SM, Khan SM Knowledge, attitude, and practices related to COVID-19 pandemic among social media users in J&K, India. Indian J Public Health 2020;64:S205-10.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Tsai J, Wilson M COVID-19: A potential public health problem for homeless populations. Lancet Public Health 2020;5:e186.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, Woodland L, Wessely S, Greenberg N, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. Lancet 2020;395:912-20.  Back to cited text no. 16
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]



 

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