Sheffield psychologists study mental health and social impacts of coronavirus
and live on Freeview channel 276
The team of experts, led by Professor Richard Bentall, will be surveying 2,000 people in the UK now, and again in a month’s time, and hope that their findings will help inform the better management of future public health crises.
They aim to measure how coronavirus is impacting people’s mental health, their attitudes towards others and their political views, and understand how these change as the pandemic progresses through the population.
It is hoped this will allow the team to understand how these can change depending on if someone has been exposed to infected people, and their beliefs around the virus and the pandemic as a whole.
Dr Jilly Gibson-Miller, Lecturer in Health Psychology at the University of Sheffield, said: “This is one of the first studies of the 'psychology of epidemics' during perhaps one of the biggest existential threats the world has faced this century.
“Our survey will allow us to begin to understand, in great depth, the psychological impact of this epidemic on our citizens and how this changes as the epidemic unfolds.
“We know what an important role human behaviour plays in the spread of an epidemic. As a Health Psychologist, I'm particularly interested in the extent to which people are carrying out protective behaviours, such as hand-washing and social distancing, and whether they feel they have sufficient motivation, opportunity and capability to do so.”
The representative group of UK residents will be asked about the health-related behaviours introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus – such as social distancing, use of masks and handwashing – to measure the extent to which people are enacting them.
The psychologists predict that exposure to Covid-19 events, such as exposure to infected people, will cause an increase in depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and they expect a reduction in people’s sense of trust and control over their own lives.
Currently, there is little research around the psychological impacts of viral epidemics and pandemics but the limited data that is available suggests that they may have severe social and psychological effects, with quarantining affecting mental health.