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      Media multitasking, depression, and anxiety of college students: Serial mediating effects of attention control and negative information attentional bias

      1 , 2 , 3 , * , , 2
      Frontiers in Psychiatry
      Frontiers Media S.A.
      media multitasking, attentional control, attention bias, depression, anxiety

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          The COVID-19 epidemic provides an environment for frequent media multitasking, which might associate with an increase in depression and anxiety. Since many studies have found that media multitasking negatively affects cognitive capacity, we propose a cognitive perspective to explore how media multitasking may associate with mental health. This study examined the potential mediating role of attention control and negative information attentional bias in the relationship between media multitasking and anxiety and depression.


          Participants ( n = 567) were recruited from college students in China. They completed an online survey that included the Media Multitasking Inventory (MMI), Attention Control Scale (ACS), Attention to Positive and Negative Information Scale (APNI), Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). After exploring the correlations between the measures, serial mediation models were examined.


          The results indicated significant positive correlations between media multitasking and anxiety and depression. Media multitasking, anxiety, and depression were negatively correlated with attention focusing, while positively correlated with negative information attention bias. Media multitasking did not correlate with attention shifting. Mediation modeling demonstrated that attention focusing and negative information attention bias played a serial mediating role in the relationship between media multitasking and anxiety and depression. However, the results did not support the serial mediation model through attention shifting and negative information attention bias.


          Media multitasking does not directly influence anxiety and depression, while attention focusing and negative information attention bias play serial mediating roles in their relationship. This study highlights the potential cognitive mechanisms between media multitasking and anxiety and depression, providing theoretical support for interventions in individual mental health during the epidemic.

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          Most cited references60

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          Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies.

          Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.
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            A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD-7.

            Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental disorders; however, there is no brief clinical measure for assessing GAD. The objective of this study was to develop a brief self-report scale to identify probable cases of GAD and evaluate its reliability and validity. A criterion-standard study was performed in 15 primary care clinics in the United States from November 2004 through June 2005. Of a total of 2740 adult patients completing a study questionnaire, 965 patients had a telephone interview with a mental health professional within 1 week. For criterion and construct validity, GAD self-report scale diagnoses were compared with independent diagnoses made by mental health professionals; functional status measures; disability days; and health care use. A 7-item anxiety scale (GAD-7) had good reliability, as well as criterion, construct, factorial, and procedural validity. A cut point was identified that optimized sensitivity (89%) and specificity (82%). Increasing scores on the scale were strongly associated with multiple domains of functional impairment (all 6 Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form General Health Survey scales and disability days). Although GAD and depression symptoms frequently co-occurred, factor analysis confirmed them as distinct dimensions. Moreover, GAD and depression symptoms had differing but independent effects on functional impairment and disability. There was good agreement between self-report and interviewer-administered versions of the scale. The GAD-7 is a valid and efficient tool for screening for GAD and assessing its severity in clinical practice and research.
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              The PHQ-9: validity of a brief depression severity measure.

              While considerable attention has focused on improving the detection of depression, assessment of severity is also important in guiding treatment decisions. Therefore, we examined the validity of a brief, new measure of depression severity. The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a self-administered version of the PRIME-MD diagnostic instrument for common mental disorders. The PHQ-9 is the depression module, which scores each of the 9 DSM-IV criteria as "0" (not at all) to "3" (nearly every day). The PHQ-9 was completed by 6,000 patients in 8 primary care clinics and 7 obstetrics-gynecology clinics. Construct validity was assessed using the 20-item Short-Form General Health Survey, self-reported sick days and clinic visits, and symptom-related difficulty. Criterion validity was assessed against an independent structured mental health professional (MHP) interview in a sample of 580 patients. As PHQ-9 depression severity increased, there was a substantial decrease in functional status on all 6 SF-20 subscales. Also, symptom-related difficulty, sick days, and health care utilization increased. Using the MHP reinterview as the criterion standard, a PHQ-9 score > or =10 had a sensitivity of 88% and a specificity of 88% for major depression. PHQ-9 scores of 5, 10, 15, and 20 represented mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe depression, respectively. Results were similar in the primary care and obstetrics-gynecology samples. In addition to making criteria-based diagnoses of depressive disorders, the PHQ-9 is also a reliable and valid measure of depression severity. These characteristics plus its brevity make the PHQ-9 a useful clinical and research tool.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychiatry
                Front Psychiatry
                Front. Psychiatry
                Frontiers in Psychiatry
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                18 August 2022
                : 13
                : 989201
                [1] 1Key Research Base of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Ministry of Education, Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University , Tianjin, China
                [2] 2Faculty of Psychology, Tianjin Normal University , Tianjin, China
                [3] 3Tianjin Social Science Laboratory of Students’ Mental Development and Learning , Tianjin, China
                Author notes

                Edited by: Li Wang, Institute of Psychology (CAS), China

                Reviewed by: Jiutong Luo, Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, China; Rotimi Oguntayo, University of Ilorin, Nigeria; Baojuan Ye, Jiangxi Normal University, China

                *Correspondence: Shiyi Li, lishiyi@ 123456tjnu.edu.cn

                This article was submitted to Public Mental Health, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry

                Copyright © 2022 Li and Fan.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 08 July 2022
                : 01 August 2022
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 5, Equations: 0, References: 61, Pages: 11, Words: 7322
                Funded by: National Natural Science Foundation of China, doi 10.13039/501100001809;
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                media multitasking,attentional control,attention bias,depression,anxiety


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