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What have we found so far?

As we approach Wave 3 of data collection for the Global Covid Study (April 17th 2021), here’s a summary of what we’ve found so far!

Key lockdown stressors

The top sources of stress for our participants throughout lockdowns 1 and 2 were other people not social distancing (51.8%), uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (50.8%), future plans (46.3%), mental health (33.4%) and boredom and loneliness (30%). In lockdown 3, government’s COVID-19 guidance (47%) and other people not wearing masks/gloves (51%) were added to the list of key stressors.

Changes in prevalence and attitudes to mask usage

In the first lockdown, UK participants reported a lower prevalence of face coverings being used in the community (<30%) compared to Italy (>80%), the USA (50-80%) and Hong Kong (90-100%). Of the UK participants, 55% expressed they firmly believe in the efficacy of wearing face coverings outdoors. This percentage was much higher in Italy (78%), the USA (85%) and Hong Kong (97%). By the second lockdown, mask wearing in the UK had increased to around 50%.

Age group differences

Compared to other age groups, COVID-19 appears to be having the strongest impact on participants aged 18-24 in terms of their mental health, stress and time spent doing mild exercise. Participants of all ages are being affected by levels of loneliness.

Loneliness in particular has been identified as a key risk factor for lockdown. Our colleagues in Italy found “U-shaped” patterns of self-perceived loneliness in the UK and Greece, with loneliness decreasing significantly in Week 4 and 5 of the first lockdown and then rising again in Week 6. We are currently testing whether Wave 1 findings replicate in Wave 2 data during lockdown 2 and 3 in the UK and most of Europe and these findings will be presented at our summer webinar in June-July 2021 which is open to the public.

Gender differences

We’ve found no gender differences across psychological constructs except for empathy and anxiety, where female participants have reported on average higher levels of anxiety and empathy compared to males. Although, it is important to note that like other COVID studies, we also have a higher number of female respondents than males (74% females).

Teacher’s mental health

Of our participants, 319 are teaching/educational professionals. Compared to the general population (n = 1117), there was no difference on levels of anxiety, depression, stress, sleep quality or aggression after controlling for gender, age and site.

For more information on how you can cope with various stressors that have arisen or have been emphasised in the COVID era, check out:

Vaccine roll-outs: To vaccinate or not?

We asked our participants whether they would take the COVID vaccine when it became available to them (back in October 2020 through January 2021). The word clouds below represent the most common reasons for whether they are likely, unlikely or unsure to get vaccinated.

In two recent blogs, we discussed the phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy and what makes some people more or less willing to receive their COVID jabs.

Testing positive for COVID and experiences of loss

We asked our participants “Do you know any friend(s)/family member(s) who have tested positive for COVID-19?” and found that in the first lockdown the majority of participants responded No (70.6%), with only 29.0% responding Yes. This changed in the second lockdown, where 61.8% of participants responded No and 38.2% responded Yes (13.9% tested positive themselves, and 7.9% tested positive themselves along with at least one family member).

We also asked our participants “Do you know anyone who has passed away from COVID-19?” and found that more than half knew of at least one acquaintance (59.8%), 25.2% lost a family member and 20.5% have lost a friend to COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is or has experienced the loss of a loved one, check out our blog post on coping with grief in COVID and these additional resources that may be of use during these difficult times.

Silver linings

Despite the difficulties and challenges COVID-19 has created, participants have identified some positive outcomes from the pandemic such as strengthening solidarity and cohesion between family members, friends, and communities, increased volunteering and acts of good will and more hygienic behaviour.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been over a year since COVID-19 interrupted our lives. With the UK government’s recent release of their roadmap out of lockdown, 21st June 2021 is certainly a date to look forward to. The light at the end of the tunnel is near! So let’s keep washing our hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and getting our vaccinations so we can make this (hopefully) the last lockdown.

Exciting things to come!

As one of 53 UCL projects led by UCL academics that have recently won the 2020/2021 UCL Global Engagement Fund (GEF), we are excited to launch a summer webinar series over June and July 2021 where our research team will be presenting on our findings to the public. This is a free event involving UCL and Penn alumni groups around the world. You are invited! Check back on our website in May to see how you can sign-up!

From all of us in the Global Covid Study team, we hope you’re all staying safe and wish you a Happy Easter!

This post was co-written by Ms. Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh), an MEd Psychology and Education student at the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

Have any questions or want to share any of your COVID experiences? Get in touch at contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!

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