Research shows that the various waves of COVID-19 have generated increased fears, loneliness, and negative feelings in many adolescents. In this context, social media use may fulfill the pivotal function of connection, thereby supporting a sense of relational and emotional closeness to others via online interactions. However, there is no agreement as to the risks or buffering effects of social media usage among adolescents during the pandemic. The current study aims to explore the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19-related fears on adolescents’ perceived stress and depression, evaluating the mediating effect of their sense of loneliness and the moderating effect of relational closeness to online friends. A sample of 544 Italian adolescents participated in an online survey during the third wave of COVID-19 (71.9% females; mean age = 16.22 years). The survey comprised the Multidimensional Assessment of COVID-19-Related Fears, the Italian Loneliness Scale, the Depression and Stress subscales of the Depression-Anxiety-Stress Scale-21, and the Relational Closeness. The findings show a mediating effect of loneliness in the predictive relationship between COVID-19-related fears and both depression and stress, and they also indicate that relational closeness to online friends has a moderating effect, buffering the effect of loneliness on adolescents’ stress and depression. The positive role of relational closeness to online friends suggests the need to consider the quality of the specific use of social media among adolescents, which may serve precise functions and needs.

COVID-19-related fears, stress and depression in adolescents: The role of loneliness and relational closeness to online friends

Boursier V.
;
Gioia F.;
2022

Abstract

Research shows that the various waves of COVID-19 have generated increased fears, loneliness, and negative feelings in many adolescents. In this context, social media use may fulfill the pivotal function of connection, thereby supporting a sense of relational and emotional closeness to others via online interactions. However, there is no agreement as to the risks or buffering effects of social media usage among adolescents during the pandemic. The current study aims to explore the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19-related fears on adolescents’ perceived stress and depression, evaluating the mediating effect of their sense of loneliness and the moderating effect of relational closeness to online friends. A sample of 544 Italian adolescents participated in an online survey during the third wave of COVID-19 (71.9% females; mean age = 16.22 years). The survey comprised the Multidimensional Assessment of COVID-19-Related Fears, the Italian Loneliness Scale, the Depression and Stress subscales of the Depression-Anxiety-Stress Scale-21, and the Relational Closeness. The findings show a mediating effect of loneliness in the predictive relationship between COVID-19-related fears and both depression and stress, and they also indicate that relational closeness to online friends has a moderating effect, buffering the effect of loneliness on adolescents’ stress and depression. The positive role of relational closeness to online friends suggests the need to consider the quality of the specific use of social media among adolescents, which may serve precise functions and needs.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11588/893409
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