Social media and partnership jointly alleviate caregivers' psychological distress: exploring the effects of online and offline connectedness

BMC Psychol. 2023 Nov 14;11(1):394. doi: 10.1186/s40359-023-01415-9.


Background: The prevalence of caregiving in the United States has increased from 16.6% to 19.2% during the period between 2015 and 2020. Caregivers play a critical public health role post-pandemic and as the population ages. However, caregiving can be detrimental to the health of caregivers. Many studies have shown that communication and connectedness are effective forms of health intervention for caregivers, but how this can be achieved requires further investigation.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the indirect effect of caregiving on problems of alcohol drinking through psychological distress. Moreover, this study aimed to provide initial evidence of the distinct effects of online and offline communication and connectedness on caregivers' well-being.

Methods: The predictions were evaluated by examining responses to the Health Information National Trends Survey 2020 (n = 3,865). A mediation analysis was conducted to test the mediating effect of psychological distress on the association between caregiving and alcohol drinking. A second-level moderation analysis was performed. The online communication and connectedness, social media use for health, and the offline type, marital or romantic partnership, were tested as moderators to lessen the psychological distress of caregiving.

Results: A competitive mediation was identified. We found a positive indirect effect from caregiving to alcohol drinking mediated by psychological distress (bp = .0017, p < .05) but a negative direct effect from caregiving to alcohol drinking (bp = -.0340, p < .05). Furthermore, the study reported a strongly positive effect of moderated moderation on the linkage from caregiving to psychological distress. The negative impact of caregiving on mental distress was greater among those who used social media less, particularly those without a romantic or marital partner.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that caregivers experience more mental distress, which leads to risky behavior. This study highlights the crucial role of both online and offline connectedness in mitigating the adverse consequences of caregiving.

Keywords: Alcohol drinking; Caregiving; Mediation analysis; Moderated moderation analysis; Partnership; Percentage coefficient (b p); Psychological distress; Social media.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Humans
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Social Media*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology