COVID-19 pandemic impacted internet use and anxiety among general public during COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan

Maryam Pyar Ali Lakhdir, Aga Khan University
Fauzia Basaria Hasnani, Aga Khan University
Iqbal Azam Syed, Aga Khan University
Malik Muhammad Hamza Khan, Aga Khan University
Ghazal Peerwani, Tabba Heart Institute, Pakistan
Muhammad Talha Nawaz, Aga Khan University
Ayesha Nasir Hameed, Aga Khan University
Meher Angez, Aga Khan University
Apsara Ali Nathwani, Aga Khan University


Objective: To determine the association between internet use and anxiety among people during the coronavirus disease- 2019 pandemic.
Methods: The cross-sectional study was conducted across Pakistan from January 14 to February 21, 2021, which was the active phase of the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic in Pakistan. The participants were aged at least 13 years having internet access regardless of gender or their location across Pakistan. The anonymous web-based survey was conducted using a questionnaire generated on Google Forms and disseminated through various social media platforms and WhatsApp groups. Anxiety symptoms were screened using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21, while the Young Internet Addiction Test was used to evaluate symptoms of internet addiction. Data was analysed using STATA 16.
Results: Of the 1,145 subjects, 686(60%) were females and 459(40%) were males. A total of 257(22.5%) participants were found to have extremely severe anxiety and internet usage pattern was significantly associated with the level of anxiety (p<0.05). Age, gender, social class and marital status were not significantly different (p>0.05), while family income and area of living were significantly different (p<0.05) in terms of anxiety levels. The odd of addictive internet use was 10.2 (95% confidence interval: 5.7-18.5) times greater in extreme anxiety individuals compared to individuals having no anxiety after controlling for other sociodemographic, health-related, behavioural and environmental factors during the pandemic.
Conclusion: A significant association of anxiety was found with internet addiction during the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic.