Internet use during the COVID-19 outbreak: A resource for well-being or an amplifier of psychological distress? A study on an Italian sample

Claudia Venuleo, Claudia Marino, Lucrezia Ferrante, Simone Rollo, Adriano Schimmenti


Internet usage increased globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study examined the role of online/offline relational resources to see whether the Internet improved well-being or amplified psychological distress, also considering the mediating role of Internet use motives. A sample of 573 Italian adults (Mean age = 40.28 years; SD = 16.43; 64% women) reported their motives for Internet use during lockdown and completed standardized measures on loneliness, online social support, well-being and problematic Internet use (PIU). A path analysis showed that loneliness positively predicted PIU and negatively predicted well-being, whereas perceived online social support positively predicted well-being. Loneliness was significantly associated with social/coping motives, which in turn were associated with PIU. Moreover, loneliness mediated the relationship between online social support and PIU. No significant mediating role was found for knowledge and studying/working motives. These findings call for tailored efforts to blunt the impact of social isolation and foster social connectivity.


COVID-19; Loneliness; Online social support; Internet use motives; Problematic Internet use; Well-being.

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