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Hear Us Out! Opportunities for the COVID generation

Six months since the launch of our survey on 17 April, we are now following-up participants with our second survey. We are very pleased to have received 500+ returns in our first week – thank you! So if you took part in the first wave, you should have now received a personalised follow-up link. If you didn’t get to take part last time, or know someone who would like share their experience on the impacts of COVID-19, you can join here. We’d love to hear from you!

So, with the start of the new wave, the Research Assistants from our team (who are also the authors behind the fantastic blogs that you have read) would like to first share their experiences surrounding COVID-19. In particular, what are their personal worries, lessons learned working on the study, where they are headed next and their advice for students going into university/work today.

Q1: What inspired you to get involved with the study?

“I was inspired to get involved in this study because I felt like the voice of our generation was not really being heard in the midst of the pandemic. I felt that university students, specifically, were being under-represented and not given enough consideration regarding how this was affecting our mental health and life trajectories.” – Reina, Year 3 BSc Psychology with Education, University College London

“As part of my master’s Thesis, I was planning on studying the differences in levels of mistrust between children in the UK and Lebanon, but due to the pandemic, I could not visit schools and had to modify my research topic. My supervisor and the PI of the Global Covid Study research, Dr. Keri Wong, suggested that I get involved with the study. At least I can help collect data while benefiting from the responses obtained on the survey.” – Laetitia, MSc Child Development, University College London

“My degree at UCL was largely foundational and theoretical so I was very excited to engage with current research and apply the skills I’d acquired to it. In addition, the start of the pandemic in particular had resulted in the propagation of misinformation; I felt privileged to work within a legitimate research team that was going to generate valid conclusions.” – Keya, Psychological Assistant at Catch22

“My final year of undergraduate study came to an abrupt end and I was struggling coming to terms with it and saying early goodbyes to friends and colleagues. While in lockdown, I was diligent in encouraging my peers to continue to be inspired by research in psychology and education by founding the UCL Psychology with Education Society. Dr. Keri Wong asked me to share the study on the society’s platforms and I asked her whether she was looking for assistance. I thought that this would be a meaningful way to support not only students at UCL, but students all over the world in sharing psychological knowledge and concepts that can help us cope with COVID-19.” – Kyleigh, MEd Psychology and Education, University of Cambridge

Q2: Have your worries surrounding COVID changed since March?

“My worries have changed since March. I think in the beginning I was very worried about personally getting sick, but as I came to understand more about COVID-19, my concern shifted to being about social responsibility. I started to become more and more worried about how some lacked awareness for how much each of our individual actions are affecting those around us and essentially, every other individual.” – Reina

“Since the pandemic erupted, the way media fed us information influenced greatly how we acted and responded to the crisis. Initially, a lot of people were scared and took great precaution while a few months later people showed little compliance to the rules. Personally, I wasn’t worried for myself as much as I was worried about the vulnerable population including some members of my family. I still follow social distancing rules and wear masks and wish more people would too, especially in London considering the increase of death due to the Covid-19 virus.” – Laetitia

“My worries have shifted. Initially, I was very concerned that I wouldn’t find a job after graduating because of the Covid triggered recession but I became more and more optimistic as time went on. I think I realised the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon and I had to just roll with it.” – Keya

“Initially, I was very worried that my returning home would put my family at risk of getting sick, particularly my father who has underlying respiratory issues. I was also worried for my friends and family overseas and whether they were staying safe. A silver lining that came from these intense worries is that I got into a routine to call or message them at least once a week, which is something I rarely did before COVID-19. Now that the UK is seeing an increase in cases, I’m worrying whether citizens will be as compliant to safety precautions when they are out in public spaces and on public transport. I live with a friend who is asthmatic and I commute every day to work … I have nightmares of bringing COVID back to my flat and getting her sick.” – Kyleigh

Q3: What have you learned from your time as a Research Assistant?

“I have developed several skills as a research assistant. I believe the most important one is the capacity to write a blog post. I had no previous experience with writing something intended to benefit others and spread important information in an accessible way. Furthermore, it has been an brilliant experience getting to apply the skills and knowledge I have developed during the course of my Psychology degree.” – Reina

“As a research assistant, I developed a more in-depth understanding of the process of conducting a study, which will significantly facilitate pursuing a doctorate program in psychology. It also allowed to work better in a group setting as well as enhancing my writing skills in both the academic setting (Research paper) and a more casual settings (Writing blog-posts).” – Laetitia

“The main skill I’ve learned is definitely how to write a blog post. Not only had I never written a blog post before, but I found it quite bewildering to write a piece that wasn’t going to be graded. I have grown to love the literary freedom that comes alongside this!” – Keya

“Being a research assistant for the study has only strengthened my passion for research and discussing psychological concepts with others. I have learned that writing for the general public is very different to how you write for a university assignment, and it was very enjoyable to conduct research and write blog posts on topics surrounding COVID I personally connected with (e.g. how playing Animal Crossing and technology has kept my spirits up when in lockdown). I was also responsible for creating the graphics for the study’s social media platforms. I was very happy to hear that my graphics were getting such positive feedback from students and academics alike, and how they were informative as well as pleasing to look at. I am excited to see if the study’s findings will inform the government on how to support students in the COVID era.” – Kyleigh

Q4: What’s in store for you this coming year?

“This year I will be completing my undergraduate degree as I am a third year student. As all my learning for first term (at least) has been made virtual, I will be living in Ghana with my family. I hope to finish my year in London with my peers and continue on to do a Master’s Degree.” – Reina

“I’m a student enrolled in the M.S. Child development program at the University College London. I’m currently writing up my thesis and I am aiming to get into a doctorate program later on.” – Laetitia

“I have just started a job working with deprived young people in Camden. My job is intense but incredibly rewarding and draws upon my two main interests, Psychology and Criminology, perfectly. I hope to go on to pursue a masters in Criminology and then a career in clinical psychology.” – Keya

“I am starting my MEd in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge. Alongside my studies, I’m working as a Special Education Needs (SEN) Teaching Assistant in a primary school in Wandsworth and private Applied Behavioural Analysis tutor for a family in North London. I will also be singing in the London Youth Chamber Choir (over Zoom until guidance tells us it’s safe to sing together in person!).” – Kyleigh

Q5: Do you have any advice for students going into/continuing university or going into work in the COVID-19 era?

“As I am only a third year undergraduate student, I am not sure I am in the best position to be dolling out advice. However, I would advise Freshers to take every opportunity available. Three (or four) years is not long and the opportunities universities offer (even virtually) are unbeatable.” – Reina

“One piece of advice I would personally give is to keep a critical mindset, ask lots of questions and read a lot while conducting research. And another thing would be to try connecting as much as possible with your peers; everyone has a different background which allows them to bring so much to the table through their experiences and culture, embrace individual differences.” – Laetitia

“Get involved with uni life as much as you can. London can be a daunting place to be a student but if you keep putting yourself out there you will eventually find your place. And if you don’t, that’s ok too! It’s ok to rethink things and change your mind about what you want to be doing.” – Keya

“This is a very challenging time we’re all experiencing. My advice would be to take it day by day and be kind to yourself. COVID has shown me there really is no point in stopping yourself from doing the things you are passionate about and for spending time with the people you love. COVID has made the world come to a standstill but once it starts moving again, be ready to make the most of the opportunities that come your way.” – Kyleigh

Although many things have changed fairly dramatically for all of us, some opportuities have also arisen as a result of this pandemic. We are grateful for the opportunities that have presented itself and hope you enjoyed our blog!


This post was co-written by Ms Laetitia Al Khoury (@LaetitiaAK), Ms Ketki “Keya” Prabhu (@kkprabhu), Ms Reina Kirpalani (@rkirpalani), and Ms Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh) – former and current students on the BSc Psychology with Education degree and MSc in Child Development at UCL. Minor edits were made by Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

Are you a studying or working in the midst of COVID-19? Do you relate to any of these experiences or would like to share your experience? 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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Game on! How might video games make lockdown more bearable?

Previously, we talked about how technology is helping us stay connected to one another during lockdown. Today, we’ll talk about the technology behind video games. Video gaming has become one of the most popular leisure activities in the world and have been recorded to be played by:

  • 48% of all Europeans
  • 56% of young-adult Norwegians
  • 97% of Americans aged 12-17

Psychological research on video games often investigate the negative impacts of gaming in the form of gaming addiction. In 2018, the World Health Organisation added “gaming disorder” to the International Classification of Diseases as 1-9% of all gamers across all age groups, more commonly in males, qualify for this diagnosis. However, more recent research has begun to suggest that video games can serve as virtual platforms where players can build and maintain social connections (with 70% of all players playing with others), which is perhaps an especially helpful way of coping with these challenging times.

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In contrast to the potential benefits that video games may instil during these difficult times, our Instagram poll found that:

  • 13% of respondents are living alone;
  • 44% of respondents are feeling more suspicious/hostile towards strangers during lockdown;
  • 64% respondents feel lockdown has them feel less motivated;

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Thus, during lockdown, video games may become an invaluable source of entertainment, a way to build and maintain our social connections, distraction and motivation amidst the stresses of living in the time of COVID-19. In particular, the social simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) is the No.1 trending game in Japan, the U.S, Korea, Spain and France and has been hailed as a “conveniently timed piece of whimsy” where players take on the role of a lone human on an island filled with “relentlessly cheerful creatures”. Players are tasked with building a thriving, island society by filling it with shops, bridges and other accommodations to attract other players. ACNH follows a real-time clock and calendar and the game changes from day-to-day, offering players daily rewards and special seasonal content. For the 2020 graduates, ACNH has even become a popular venue for virtual convocations and the subject of over 38 million tweets and many news articles about the game’s ability to provide comfort and social connection in these times of isolation and social distancing.

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Image courtesy of a graduating student from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Romana Ramzan, a lecturer in Game Narrative at Glasgow Caledonian University suggests that the massive appeal behind video games during lockdown is:

  • They allow you to get absorbed into day-to-day activities without the real world consequences.
  • They can be played indefinitely, which is especially favoured these days as there is also no current end in sight for COVID-19.
  • Where we are powerless in the real world, video games and the virtual worlds they provide give players a level of calmness and total control over how the world progresses.

With regards to caring for our mental health in the time of COVID-19, video games may offer a sense of support and community when other means of support are lacking or are now harder to access. Mental health benefits of video games include:

  • Formation and maintenance of social connections
  • Improvement of mood
  • Sense of control and accomplishment
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety

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Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suggest that post-COVID-19, research may increasingly find that video games can have positive effects, particularly on influencing pro-social behaviours and fostering social connectedness. Occasional or moderate playing of video games may in fact come to be recognised as a beneficial activity to take up. However, until then, further research on it’s health benefits will require more stringent research. While we gradually come out of lockdown, you may want to find out more about the kinds of games that are out there, and whether you’d want to start playing yourself. But don’t forget: Take regular breaks from the screen every now and then!

This post was co-written by Ms. Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh), a UCL alumna and Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder: How is technology helping us socialise?

Researchers say virtual communication cannot replace face-to-face interactions. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are using virtual apps like “Houseparty” and “Zoom” and social simulation games like “Animal Crossing” to fulfil our need for social connection, in a safe and socially distanced way. Social connection, ‘a person’s subjective sense of having close and positively experienced relationships with others in the social world’, is a core human need. An absence of social connection has been linked with poor emotional wellbeing, such as feelings of loss and sadness, and pain akin to physical injury.

The Global Covid Study’s Instagram polls have found that:

  • 13% of respondents are in lockdown alone
  • 25% of respondents moved back to their families
  • 60% of respondents are finding lockdown stressful

Even before the pandemic, research has been steadily finding that more people are communicating online than offline. But perhaps this pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in our virtual social presence. If social distancing measures are here to stay, what role does the internet and technology have in helping us stay socially connected?

  • Meeting new people and catching up with old friends face-to-face is now harder or impossible. Research has shown that when relationships are at risk of decaying from lack of interaction, we will invest more time in communicating to reinforce our social connections. With an internet connection, we are able to safely maintain our existing connections and even form new ones virtually.

Despite the benefits, the emerging phenomenon of “Zoom Fatigue” is a good example of how prolonged and intensive use of the internet and technologies every day in lockdown can leave us feeling drained and exhausted. To combat Zoom Fatigue, here are a few tips on how to stay socially connected with one another without getting overwhelmed.

  • Build-in breaks. If you have back-to-back virtual meetings, consider making them 25 or 50 minutes instead of 30 minutes or an hour. This will give you a little time in between to get up and prepare for the next meeting.

The pandemic has shifted our working and social lives to being “digital-only” for the time being. But remember, it’s important to take breaks from the technology when we need them to take care of our mental wellbeing. Technology is often portrayed as an influencer of negative social behaviours. However, there is a silver lining in recognising that in these challenging and uncertain times, technology has allowed us to carry on with our working lives, safely communicate with our loved ones, and to virtually maintain our social connections.


This post was co-written by Ms. Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh), a final year student on the BSc in Psychology with Education degree at UCL and Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

How do you use technology? Are you adequately equipped to work from home? Please send your comments to contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!