Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Public Health



First Advisor

Dr. Graham D. Rowles


The COVID-19 pandemic led to quarantines and mandatory spatial distancing; people of all ages were encouraged to use technologies instead of actual human contact for COVID-19 prevention and daily activities. The special circumstances of living plus innovation and promotion of mobile applications (apps) during the pandemic influenced mobile technology use behavior. In this study we explored age differences in mobile technology use, the factors that influenced use behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, and proposed a research model that aimed to predict behavioral intention and mobile technology use behavior. A pilot-tested survey was distributed through online survey software. Participants were 35 years old or older, lived in the United States of America, and had experience using mobile technology. The survey contained four parts, questions regarding participant characteristics, mobile technology use experience before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, variables that affected mobile technology use, and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic to daily life and mobile technology use.

Data analysis included 1212 respondents nationwide, with representation from the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast region. The average age of participants was 56.12 ± 12.26 years (female : male = 1.24 : 1). Most of the participants had used mobile technology for more than three years; and approximately 67% of the participants decided to use mobile technology because they needed it to function in today’s society. There are six major findings in this study. First, this study identified significant reported differences in using mobile technology frequency and functions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is statistically significant (p < 0.01) increase of mobile technology daily use frequency and perceived necessity of mobile technology use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings also showed changes in use behavior regarding mobile technology functions. A significant (p < 0.01) increase in using functions such as video calls, online grocery shopping or delivery, online education, and reserving taxi or car services on mobile technology during the pandemic was identified in the study.

Second, this study identified age difference in mobile technology use frequency and choice of functions. To examine age differences in mobile technology use, participants were categorized into three groups: age 35 to 49 (n = 391), 50 to 64 (n = 435), and 65 to 83 (n = 386). Daily mobile technology use frequency of all groups increased significantly (p < 0.01) during the COVID-19 pandemic, with participants at age 35 to 49 having significantly higher (p < 0.01) use frequency than the other groups. Age differences were also found in the choice of mobile technology functions used during the pandemic. Participants at age 35 to 49 had significantly (p < 0.05) higher use in video calls, online education, food or grocery delivery, and entertainment than the other groups. In contrast, participants at age 35 to 49 had significantly (p < 0.05) lower use of text messaging and email than the other groups. Moreover, participant at age 65 to 83 had significantly (p < 0.05) higher use of navigation, reserving taxi or car service, and checking breaking news than the participants at age 35 to 49.

Third, this study identified that the availability of mobile technology functions and the necessity of using mobile technology to function in society remained as the top two critical factors before and during the pandemic.

Fourth, this study found the increased attention to benefits that could be received from using mobile technology. There were significant (p < 0.01) increases in considering physical, social, and emotional benefits as important factors in using mobile technology during the pandemic. Also, significant (p < 0.01) decreases in considering price, pleasure, and ease of use as important factors were found in the study.

Fifth, this study verified the important role of event (i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic) in predicting mobile technology use. A structural model of technology use behavior and behavioral intention, based on the pre-existing Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model and previous studies regarding technology use, was developed and examined in the study. The moderator, event, provided essential moderation effects in predicting mobile technology use behavior during the pandemic.

Finally, the study provided evidence that the effects of perceived values, self-efficacy, and personal innovativeness on behavioral intention and use behavior cannot be ignored. While validating the proposed research model of this study, three constructs (perceived values, self-efficacy, and personal innovativeness) significantly (p < 0.001) influenced behavioral intention of mobile technology use during the pandemic. With the added moderator and constructs, the refined research model of this study can explain 4.5 percent more variance in behavioral intention and 1.5 percent more variance in mobile technology use behavior.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a series of behavioral changes of human beings. One of the significant changes is the use behavior of mobile technology. The findings in this study suggested that people in today’s society might not have flexible choice of whether or not to use mobile technology in their life due to the coronavirus disease outbreak. Although people in all age groups were forced to use mobile technology, the nature of aging still leads to different demands and experience of mobile technology use. Future studies should examine the effects of behavioral change in mobile technology use during the pandemic and acknowledge the importance of age differences.

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