Effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on addiction to social networking sites and associations with changes in loneliness, sexual functioning, and eating styles
It is likely that COVID-19 lockdowns influence online behaviours, as well as eating and sexual behaviours. Thus, we examined correlations of changes in addiction to SNS with changes in sexual function and dysfunctional eating styles that may lead to weight gain, during COVID-19 lockdowns in Portugal.<
The sample consisted of 3.353 respondents to an online survey (2.677 women, 676 men), of which 989 women and 286 men reported information on sexual functioning.
Measures included Internet Addiction Test adapted to SNS, Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, Female Sexual Function Index, Female Sexual Distress Scale – Revised, and International Index of Erectile Function. Response formats were adapted to visual analogue scales anchored from -100 (diminished extremely during lockdown) to 100 (increased extremely during lockdown).
There was great variability in the changes in addiction to SNS. Increases in addictive use of SNS were associated with increases in loneliness, as well as increases in uncontrolled appetite and in eating to cope with negative mood.
In women, increases in addiction to SNS correlated with decreases in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, and satisfaction, and with increases in coital pain, difficulties having orgasms, and sexual distress.
In men, increases in addiction to SNS correlated with decreases in sexual desire and satisfaction, and with increases in difficulties having orgasms and erections. Effects were similar in first and second lockdown.
Increases in addiction to SNS appear to be associated with increased problems in eating behaviour and sexual behaviour during lockdowns. Research is warranted to examine these relationships in normal circumstances without lockdowns.