Escapism and Excessive Online Behaviors: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study in Finland during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Excessive online behaviors refer to harmful or disproportionate use of digital network applications. Such behaviors are likely to be associated with escapist motives. Our aim was to analyze whether escapism predicts excessive gambling, excessive gaming, and excessive internet use over time. A longitudinal sample of Finnish residents aged 18–75 years (n = 1022, 51.27% male) was surveyed at three time points during the COVID-19 pandemic in 6-month intervals: April 2021 (Time 1), October–November 2021 (Time 2), and April–May 2022 (Time 3). Of the original Time 1 respondents, 66.80% took part in the surveys at both Time 2 and Time 3. All surveys included measures for excessive gambling (Problem Gambling Severity Index), excessive gaming (Internet Gaming Disorder Test), and excessive internet use (Compulsive Internet Use Scale). Three escapism-specific questions were used to construct a dedicated escapism variable. Socio-demographic variables, alcohol consumption, and psychological distress were used as controls. The study was conducted with multilevel regression analyses using hybrid models. Our research showed that escapism had strong within-person effects on excessive gambling, B = 0.18, p = 0.003; excessive gaming, B = 0.50, p < 0.001; and excessive internet use, B = 0.77, p < 0.001 over time. The between-person effect of escapism was demonstrated on excessive gaming B = 0.91, p < 0.001, and excessive internet use B = 0.61, p = 0.036. Adverse societal events and uncertain times can manifest in excessive online behaviors motivated by escapism, highlighting a need to focus prevention efforts on healthy coping methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12491
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • addiction
  • escapism
  • excessive behaviors
  • gambling
  • gaming
  • internet use

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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