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Problematic Social Media Usage and Anxiety Among University Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital and the Moderating Role of Academic Burnout

The outbreak of COVID-19 has greatly affected university students’ studies and life. This study aimed to examine the possible mediating role of psychological capital and the moderating role of academic burnout in the relationship between problematic social media usage and anxiety among university students during COVID-19. A total of 3,123 undergraduates from universities in Shanghai participated in an online survey from March to April 2020. The results showed that problematic social media usage among university students predicted their levels of anxiety. Mediation analysis indicated that psychological capital mediated the relationship between problematic social media usage and anxiety. Furthermore, for university students whose academic performance had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of both problematic social media usage and the psychological capital on anxiety were moderated by academic burnout. For university students whose academic performance was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, academic burnout moderated the effects of psychological capital but not the effects of problematic social media usage on anxiety. The results highlighted the underlying mechanisms in the relationship between problematic social media usage and anxiety. These findings provide practical insights into the development and implementation of psychological interventions when facing a pandemic.

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