Digital connection
Cyberpsychology, Research

Research finds link between digital skills, isolation and loneliness

The lower your digital skills, the lonelier you are likely to be and the poorer your mental and emotional wellbeing, new research indicates.

21 February 2024

By BPS Communications

The study suggests that lower digital skills are indirectly related to wellbeing and loneliness through an association with isolation.

A total of 3,492 adults were surveyed as part of the research presented at the last Cyberpsychology Section annual conference. A range of measures were used to assess how digitally skilled respondents were, as well as their levels of isolation, loneliness and wellbeing.

Charlotte Griffin, a PhD student at Cardiff University who carried out the study, said, remarkably, it revealed that half of an individual’s wellbeing is related to their isolation, loneliness, and digital skills.

“The finding that more than half of the variability in wellbeing is related to a relationship with isolation, loneliness, and digital skills was striking. This highlights the complex interaction of factors such as digital engagement, isolation and loneliness, and wellbeing, and opens questions about how this outcome arises.”

The study also looked at whether age influenced this relationship. It found that younger adults (under 65) with lower digital skills are more likely to be isolated, lonely, and have poorer wellbeing than over 65s.

Ms Griffin said this was probably because under 65s are likely to be more reliant on digital technology to connect with their peers than older adults, and therefore are likely to feel more isolated and lonelier if they are digitally excluded. She added:

“In an age where the digital landscape is transforming the way we connect and interact with others, loneliness has emerged as a growing public health issue.

“Loneliness is a complex emotion and is closely tied to our overall health and psychosocial wellbeing.”

Not everyone possessed the same level of digital skills, Ms Griffin said, and this discrepancy could influence social exclusion. However, she believes digital skills training may have the potential to improve loneliness and wellbeing, by reducing isolation.

Ms Griffin will be completing her PhD in September, after which time she is hoping to pursue postdoctoral research on the potential for technological interventions to improve wellbeing.

If you would like to get in touch with Ms Griffin to discuss her research or related research ideas, you can connect with her by email, Twitter or LinkedIn.


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