UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Mobile Device Usage before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic among Rural and Urban Adults Jonnatan, Livia; Seaton, Cherisse L.; Rush, Kathy L.; Li, Eric Ping Hung, 1978-; Hasan, Khalad


Technology has played a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite affording a safe way for people to connect with others, the potential for problematic device usage (e.g., overuse, addiction) should be considered. The goal of this study was to examine mobile device use during the COVID-19 pandemic among rural and urban people in Canada. Based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2021 in British Columbia (n = 465), participants self-reported spending more hours per day (M = 8.35 h) using technology during the pandemic compared to prior (M = 6.02 h), with higher increases among urban participants (p < 0.001). Mobile device usage scores were highest for reasons of social connectedness and productivity, with no rural/urban differences; however, urban participants reported higher use of mobile devices for their mental well-being (p = 0.001), but also reported higher, continuous use (p < 0.001), addiction (p < 0.001), and detrimental impacts on their physical health (p < 0.001) compared to rural participants. Because urban participants were more vulnerable to mobile device overuse and addiction during the pandemic, researchers and policy makers should consider the ongoing role and positive/negative impacts of mobile device use, paying particular attention to urban populations.

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