Online social connections and Internet use among people with intellectual disabilities in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sue Caton , Chris Hatton , Amanda Gillooly, Edward Oloidi, Libby Clarke, Jill Bradshaw , Samantha Flynn, Laurence Taggart, Peter Mulhall, Andrew Jahoda, Roseann Maguire, Anna Marriott, Stuart Todd, David Abbott, Stephen Beyer, Nick Gore, Pauline Heslop, Katrina Scior, Richard Hastings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Having a disability, in particular, an intellectual disability, is associated with Internet non-use. This article explores how people with intellectual disabilities used the Internet across the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April to May 2021, 571 adults with intellectual disabilities were interviewed. Participants most commonly used the Internet for being with family and friends, social media or doing online activities with other people. People who lived with family were the most likely to use social media; people who lived with other people with intellectual disabilities were the least likely. People who self-reported as not lonely were more likely to use the Internet for online activities with others and play video games with others. Social connections were identified as the best thing about the Internet. Many participants chose not to identify a worst thing about Internet use, while others reported issues with technology, online harm and threats to well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalNew Media and Society
Early online date6 May 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 6 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This research was jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation (MR/V028596/1) and the National Institute for Health Research (COV0196) and supported by the Department for Health and Social Care (National Institute for Health Research) as part of the UKRI-DHSC COVID-19 Rapid Response Rolling Call. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of DHSC, NIHR, UKRI or MRC.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • COVID-19
  • disability
  • intellectual disability
  • Internet
  • learning disability
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Communication


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