A longitudinal study of changes in smart phone addiction and depressive symptoms and potential risk factors among Chinese college students

BMC Psychiatry. 2021 May 14;21(1):252. doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03265-4.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The current study aims to track the changes in the levels of smart phone addiction (SPA) and depressive symptoms between pre and during COVID-19 and potential risk factors of among Chinese college students in a four-wave longitudinal study.

METHODS: The participants were recruited from a Chinese university (n = 195; 58.5% females). The first three-wave surveys were conducted before COVID-19 (during December of Year 1, June of Year 1, and December of Year 2 of their college study; Time 1, Time 2, Time 3), while the fourth survey (Time 4; during June of Year 2 of their college study) was conducted in June 2020 during COVID-19. COVID-19-related factors, including quarantine, lockdown, boredom, emotional loneliness, and social loneliness, were investigated.

RESULTS: The results showed a significant increase in the levels of depressive symptoms and prevalence of probable depression during COVID-19 (69.2%) compared to those 18 months, 12 months and 6 months before COVID-19 (41.5, 45.6, 48.2%) but non-significant changes in SPA. Boredom and emotional loneliness were positively associated with both SPA and depressive symptoms during COVID-19. Social loneliness was also positively associated with depressive symptoms during COVID-19. Quarantine and lockdown were not significantly associated with SPA or depressive symptoms.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: The results highlight that the study population may be a high risk group of probable depression. Future studies should continue to track these mental and behavioral status with the progression of the epidemic. The identified emotional factors could be used to reduce depressive symptoms during COVID-19 and prevent the potential risk of SPA.

PMID:33990181 | PMC:PMC8120756 | DOI:10.1186/s12888-021-03265-4

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