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OBJECTIVE: To investigate relationship of social media exposure with prevalence of depression and anxiety among general public in Lahore, Pakistan during the COVID-19 outbreak.
METHODS: A web-based cross-sectional study was conducted via Google forms in June–July 2020 among Pakistani citizens aged ≥18 years. Purposive convenient sampling was done. The questionnaire constituted socio-demographic data, information regarding social media exposure, and scales to assess depression and anxiety. Social media exposure was measured by a questionnaire based on previous literature while depression and anxiety were measured by WHO-Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) scale respectively. Differences in depression and anxiety between groups and their associations with their social media use were examined through Chi-square test.
RESULTS: Out of 516 participants who completed the questionnaire, 447 (86.6%) had frequent exposure to social media. Facebook (n=345; 66.9%) and WhatsApp (n=224; 43.4%) were the most used platforms to obtain COVID-19 related news. The prevalence of depression, anxiety, and combined depression and anxiety in the sample was 46.3% (n=239), 45.5% (n=235), and 29.7% (n=153) respectively. Statistically significant association was observed between depression and social media exposure (p<0.001) and the combination of depression and anxiety and social media exposure (p<0.05), but not with anxiety. About 56.0% (n=289) participants believed that publishing more COVID-19 related news leads to fear and panic.
CONCLUSION: People with frequent social media exposure during COVID-19 experienced detrimental effects on mental health. The awareness about limiting social media exposure during the pandemic and psychological support is required to safeguard their well-being.
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