1Dr. Ayesha Sarwar, 1Dr. Sumbul Liaqat, 2Hafiz Muhammad Umar Masood, 1Dr. Nazish Imran

1King Edward Medical University/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan; 2Fatima Memorial College of Medicine and Dentistry, Lahore, Pakistan

Background:

Frequent social media exposure in a pandemic may lead to depression and anxiety in the population. This study investigates the relationship of social media exposure with the prevalence of depression and anxiety among the general public in Lahore, Pakistan during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Material(s) and Method(s):

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. Chi-square test was used to examine differences in depression and anxiety between groups and their associations with their social media use.

Result(s):

516 participants completed the questionnaire. 86.6% of the participants had frequent exposure to social media. Facebook (66.9%) and WhatsApp (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%, 45.5% and 29.7% respectively. Chi-square revealed a statistically significant association 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 in our sample.  56.0% participants believed that publishing more COVID-19 related news leads to fear and panic

Conclusion(s):

People with frequent social media exposure during COVID-19 experienced detrimental effects on mental health, thus the awareness about limiting social media exposure during the pandemic and psychological support is required to safeguard their well-being.