COVID-19, Isolation, and Improving Mental Health through Digital Connectedness

Publication | June 2024

The mental health tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic have manifested for many people as increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Key Points

  • Globally, stringent controls were implemented to mitigate the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – and mental health deteriorated. Mobile phones provided an important gateway to connection and information during this period of isolation.
  • In some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women have limited access to mobile phones and Internet. To ensure women can benefit from the benefits of digital technology during crises and otherwise, countries must address these disparities, ensuring lack of money, knowledge gaps, and restrictive social norms do not disproportionately prevent women from online connectivity.
  • A variety of policy levers have been employed to address restrictive gender norms around phone use. Research in India by the Inclusion Economics network shows that offering women brief, small-group digital literacy training increases their mobile phone use beyond the provision of phones alone, with gains evident several years later.
  • Women who took part in mobile phone training report lower levels of depression and anxiety and embrace more liberal beliefs about appropriate mobile phone and internet use. Training-induced impacts on mental health took place through the COVID‑19 pandemic, suggesting digital connection may be protective of mental health in circumstances when in-person interactions are curtailed.

Additional Details

  • Health
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Social development and protection