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Implications of Technology Usage for Well-being and Mental Health in University Students: A Cross-cultural Comparison

Caba Machado, V (2022) Implications of Technology Usage for Well-being and Mental Health in University Students: A Cross-cultural Comparison. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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New technology and social media continue to grow, and human beings seem to be more connected to each other currently than ever before. Students are continually online, connected to their social network sites (SNS), and they are the most avid users (Alzougool, 2018, Cohen et al., 2018). The literature shows contradictory and inconclusive results regarding the associations between technology usage, well-being, and mental health, compounded by the variety of measures used. A more nuanced assessment of technology and SNSs usage, such as users’ perceptions, and the questions of how and why individuals engage with digital technology is important for making theoretical and empirical progress regarding the relationships between technology use, well-being, and mental health (Vannucci et al., 2017). Moreover, another factor that is important to consider and that plays a bidirectional and interactive effect on mental health is sleep (Vedaa et al., 2016). Several studies have reported associations between sleep problems, anxiety, and other mental health problems (Hussain & Griffiths, 2019). However, there is a lack of research examining the construct fear of missing out as a predictor of technology usage at night-time, and the associations between this usage, sleep difficulties, well-being, and anxiety. Therefore, this thesis’ aims were to: (1) examine the relationships between technology usage, anxiety, and well-being through the assessment of individual perceptions, behaviours, and affective states in university students in three countries (Spain, UK and Turkey), and (2) to determine the possible mechanisms (social comparison, fear of missing out) that mediate and predict these relationships. To achieve the above aims, new measures were developed and validated across the three different cultures. The current thesis developed new scales of well-being perceptions (8 items), anxiety perceptions (7 items) and social comparison (4 items) in relation to electronic devices and SNS usage (see appendix I). The first study of this thesis was formed by a pilot study (N = 27), a focus group (N = 4), and a panel of experts (N = 3), that aimed to develop and enhance the content validity of the new measures. Moreover, the researcher assessed the cross-cultural measurement invariance of these new measures in three different countries UK (N = 121), Spain (N = 111), and Turkey (N = 221). These three studies are integrated through the thesis. Overall, the findings suggested that the new measures are well-suited to assess well-being, anxiety perceptions, and social comparison in relation to electronic devices and SNS usage in the three different countries. Findings offer an outstanding contribution in the scope of electronic devices and SNS usage, as the new measures can be used as reference points by researchers, practitioners and mental health professionals. Despite some notable differences across culture, there are remarkable similarities that provide confidence in the measures across divergent samples. The results found in this thesis suggest that social comparison as a construct specifically related to SNS usage assessed through the measure developed by the researcher is a key mechanism. Outcomes indicate that this measure mediates the relationships between perceptions of anxiety and satisfaction with life; between well-being perceptions and satisfaction with life; between well-being perceptions and loneliness; and between anxiety perceptions and trait anxiety. Finally, results from the last study of this thesis, N = 159 participants from UK, and N = 172 participants from Spain, revealed that fear of missing out is a predictor of night-time usage of electronic devices, and that this usage is a predictor of lower well-being levels, higher sleep problems and anxiety. This thesis has given attention to solid theoretical perspectives such as the Social Comparison Theory (Festinger, 1954), Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), the interpersonal connection behaviours framework, and the stimulation and displacement hypothesis. Another strength of this thesis is that by checking at the measurement level, and at the structural level, the constructs’ functionality has been shown. Furthermore, the cross-cultural nature of this thesis, has provided added value to the constructs. In addition, the changing nature of SNS platforms, make examining the usage of these difficult in this area of research. Therefore, the development of measures that are focused on the specific context of SNS and electronic devices usage, but without the focus on a specific SNS, reduces the risk of obsolescence and adds a cross-time crucial advantage.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Technology; Well-being; Mental health; Cross-cultural; Social network sites
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Divisions: Psychology (from Sep 2019)
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2022 10:01
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2022 13:14
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00016282
Supervisors: McIlroy, D and Murphy, R
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/16282
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