Reliance on social media for health information is widespread, yet impacts of social media use (SMU) on health behaviors during infectious disease pandemics are poorly understood. We used a random sample from a university student directory to invite students to take a cross-sectional online survey during the coronavirus pandemic. Survey questions assessed adherence to public health guidelines, knowledge of COVID-19/SARS-CoV2, and mental health symptoms. Students were classified based on their level of SMU for information on COVID-19 as: (1) none, (2) some use, or (3) main source. Weighted regressions were used to relate SMU to adherence (five-point scale) and knowledge (six-point scale), with higher scores representing higher adherence/knowledge, and to mental health (PHQ-8 and GAD-7 scales). The weighted prevalence of SMU for COVD-19 information was 71.3%, and 17.1% of students identified SMU as their main source of COVID-19 information (total N = 181). Mean adherence ranged from 3.71±0.17 (SEM) for none, to 3.94±0.14 (SEM) for main source, and differences were not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Knowledge scores decreased from 5.44±0.11 (SEM) for none, to 5.38±0.08 for some, and 5.23±0.16 for main source (p = 0.056). The weighted prevalence of depression was 38.7%, 43.1%, and 51.9% for none, some use, and main source; weighted prevalence of anxiety was 19.7%, 27.0%, and 36.7%, respectively. Effects of SMU for information during pandemics on health behavior merits further research, especially regarding adherence to public health guidelines. In the case of COVID-19, SMU may be negatively correlated with knowledge and mental health.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License