Socially Connected during COVID-19: Online social connections mediate the relationship between loneliness and positive coping strategies
Keywords:Covid-19, Loneliness, Social support, coping, coronavirus
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, spread across the world in early 2020. Many countries imposed social isolation restrictions where people were confined to their homes unless their work was deemed an essential service or for short outings to obtain necessary food and household supplies. We hypothesised that a lack of face-to-face social interactions would predict feelings of loneliness and reductions in healthy coping behaviours such as eating well and keeping occupied, and predicted that use of media connections to liaise with others would mediate this negative relationship. Two hundred and thirteen participants responded to an online survey with useable data available from 181 persons (147 women) with an average age of 37.82 years (SD = 13.24). Data from a series of scales designed for this study revealed moderate levels of loneliness that directly predicted reduced engagement in healthy coping behaviours. This direct relationship was mediated by the use of media connections to liaise with others during the period of social isolation. Principal Component Analyses indicated media connections included two factors: Communication (e.g., phoning, texting) and social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram). While the data were not representative of the wider population in terms of education and gender spread, the diversity of ages is a compensating factor. Suggestions for maintaining health and the importance of support during times of trauma, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are discussed.