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Digital exclusion predicts worse mental health among adolescents during COVID-19

Authors: Thomas Edward Metherell; Sakshi Ghai; Ethan Michael McCormick; Tamsin Ford; Amy Orben;

Digital exclusion predicts worse mental health among adolescents during COVID-19

Abstract

Background Social isolation is strongly associated with poor mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing social restrictions disrupted young people’s social interactions and resulted in several periods during which school closures necessitated online learning. We hypothesise that digitally excluded young people would demonstrate greater deterioration in their mental health than their digitally connected peers during this time. Methods We analysed representative mental health data from a sample of UK 10–15-year-olds (N = 1387); Understanding Society collected the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in 2017-19 and thrice during the pandemic (July 2020, November 2020 and March 2021). We employed cross-sectional methods and longitudinal latent growth curve modelling to describe trajectories of adolescent mental health for participants with and without access to a computer or a good internet connection for schoolwork. Outcomes Adolescent mental health had a quadratic trajectory during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the highest mean Total Difficulties score around December 2020. The worsening and recovery of mental health during the pandemic was greatly pronounced among those without access to a computer, although we did not find evidence for a similar effect among those without a good internet connection. Interpretation Digital exclusion, as indicated by lack of access to a computer, is a tractable risk factor that likely compounds other adversities facing children and young people during periods of social isolation. Funding British Psychological Society; School of the Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge; NIHR Applied Research Centre; Medical Research Council; Economic and Social Research Council; and Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest. Funding Statement This study was funded by the British Psychological Society; the School of the Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge; the NIHR Applied Research Centre; the Medical Research Council; the Economic and Social Research Council; and Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge.

Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Gerontology business.product_category Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Mental health Social research Pandemic Internet access medicine Applied research Risk factor Social isolation medicine.symptom business Psychology

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    This indicator reflects the "current" impact/attention (the "hype") of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network.
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    influence
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    impulse
    This indicator reflects the initial momentum of an article directly after its publication, based on the underlying citation network.
    Average
  • citations
    This is an alternative to the "Influence" indicator, which also reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
    4
    popularity
    This indicator reflects the "current" impact/attention (the "hype") of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network.
    Top 10%
    influence
    This indicator reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
    Average
    impulse
    This indicator reflects the initial momentum of an article directly after its publication, based on the underlying citation network.
    Average
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citations
This is an alternative to the "Influence" indicator, which also reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
BIP!Citations provided by BIP!
popularity
This indicator reflects the "current" impact/attention (the "hype") of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network.
BIP!Popularity provided by BIP!
influence
This indicator reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
BIP!Influence provided by BIP!
impulse
This indicator reflects the initial momentum of an article directly after its publication, based on the underlying citation network.
BIP!Impulse provided by BIP!
4
Top 10%
Average
Average
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