Bidirectional associations between loneliness and problematic internet use: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies

Yijing ZHANG, Jun LI, Mengmeng ZHANG, Bote AI, Fenglin JIA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

Background: Loneliness and problematic Internet use (PIU) are both major public health concerns around the world. These two constructs have long been linked, but there is conflicting evidence regarding the temporal nature of the loneliness-PIU relationship. 

Method: We searched 8 databases to identify studies examining longitudinal associations between loneliness and PIU published on or before August 2023. From the 316 articles identified, 26 studies were included with a total of 23,382 participants. 

Results: Moderate, positive, and significant prospective pathways were found from loneliness to PIU (r = 0.287, p < 0.001, 95 % CI [0.241, 0.331]), and from PIU to loneliness (r = 0.255, p < 0.001, 95 % CI [0.205, 0.303]). Moderator analyses suggested that the association of loneliness with PIU was stronger in samples from Eastern countries, with more males, more young adults, less time passed, and in more recent years. The association of PIU with loneliness was stronger in samples from Eastern countries, with more males, more young adults, and in more recent years. 

Conclusions: This meta-analytic review provided the first estimation for the overall bidirectional longitudinal associations between loneliness and PIU. A deeper comprehension of the relations has implications for loneliness and PIU intervention programs, where interventions targeting both constructs might be fruitfully applied. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107916
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume150
Early online dateNov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Citation

Zhang, Y., Li, J., Zhang, M., Ai, B., & Jia, F. (2024). Bidirectional associations between loneliness and problematic internet use: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies. Addictive Behaviors, 150, Article 107916. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2023.107916

Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Longitudinal
  • Problematic internet use
  • Meta-analysis
  • Adolescents
  • Adults

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