Keri is an Assistant Professor at the University College London, Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) and Associate Fellow (AFBPsS) of the British Psychological Society. She was the former Betty Behrens Research Fellow (Clare Hall) at the University of Cambridge UK. She received her PhD in Psychology (Newnham) from the University of Cambridge, and both her BA (Hons.) in Psychology and MA in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania.
A year since the first coronavirus cases were reported in the UK – some of you reading this have now received not one but perhaps two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. We hope you are recovering well. We would love to hear your experience of the jab too, as many of us continue to wait patiently.
While vaccine rollouts continue around the country and the world, we have completed and closed our second wave of data collection. There will be just one final survey in April to look out for – as this will be the 12 month point in which we can compare your responses from last year. Again, we’d like to say a huge THANK YOU for returning your survey – we really appreciate all of your support! The survey has now closed. Should you need more time, do get in touch with us and we’ll try and reopen your survey. Meanwhile our team are processing the data. We will shortly be contacting our winner for the £50 Amazon voucher and making an announcement.
As some of you may know, this project is unfunded. Our research team thus far have been operating on zero funding, yet we continue to pursue this work because we recognise the importance of conducting this timely piece of research now. It’s vital that studies like ours are gathering data now to help us understand and inform policy responses now and in the future. As we continue to apply for larger grants to support the running cost of our study, we wanted to share two pieces of good news from yesterday:
2) Our team was successful in receiving funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund 2020-21!
This is fantastic news to our study as it will enable us to run a themed webinar series this summer to share our study findings with the wider public. Importantly, YOU and all those interested are invited to this free event as we want to hear your thoughts on the findings in co-designing solutions as well. More details to come.
Meanwhile, we do have a few virtual events coming up where we will be presenting some of our findings as well. We sincerely hope to see you at some of our events below. Recordings will also be uploaded to our website wherever possible, so you may wish to catch-up on the study in your own time. If you are a researcher interested in learning more about this study – study variables and on-going preprints/publications – please visit our Open Sciencepage.
9 February Tuesday 12-1pm: Lunchtime seminar series at the UCL Department of Psychology and Human Development. Join via Zoom:https://bit.ly/2N5gI32
18 February Thursday 5-6pm: XXI International Congress for Educators 2021: Post-COVID Recovery: Education, Resilience & Mental Health. Recording available after the event.
June-July 2021(TBD): UCL Global Engagement Fund Webinar Series on with study partners on Global COVID study findings.
As always, we value your continued support and would love to hear from you on any topics you would like to discuss or suggestions on things you would like to hear from us. Please follow us on twitter for more regular updates and to access helpful resources for lockdown/working from home @GlobalC19Study. As always, please stay healthy and be kind to yourself.
Can you believe that we’ve reached the end of 2020? While some are in disbelief others might say it hasn’t come soon enough. Whatever your journey has been this year, ‘tough’ is only an understatement, so we applaud you for making it this far. The UCL-Penn Global COVID Study Team would also like to take this opportunity to thank you and the 1000+ study participants who have continued to support our second survey. You have enabled us to learn how things may have changed for the better or worse in the last 6 months and inform current policy/debates on covid. As promised, we will have a £50 Amazon raffle and announce the winner at the end of January 2021. We will be in touch again in April 2021 for the final survey.
Before we sign-off, our team would like to wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday. The holiday season may be an especially challenging time for some of us – especially this holiday – so we would like to share some resources that may be of help to you. These include COVID-related readings from scientific sources, media updates on our study, two timely blogs on vaccine hesitancy and a a virtual webinar on ‘Lessons from Lockdown’ with the Wharton & Penn Club earlier this month.
We encourage you to subscribe to receive relevant blogs/updates from our study (like this one) at www.globalcovidstudy.com or follow us on Twitter @GlobalC19Study, as we continue to share our study findings. We always love hearing from our participants too, so do get in touch!
Original post published on the UCL IOE blog (here).
This week, the UK rolled out its largest vaccination campaign in history: “a decisive turning point in the battle against coronavirus” according to the NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens. Some people say it’s too soon; others say it hasn’t come soon enough. Yet still others are skeptical and have been so for months.
In our UCL-Penn Global COVID Study launched in April 2020, we have been following-up our participants for the second survey where we asked our participants (N = 495):
“Should a COVID-19 vaccine be available to you in the next couple months, how likely are you to take it?”
The majority of the respondents said they were likely/very likely to take the COVID vaccine (63%), about a fifth were unsure (21.8%), and the remainder said they were unlikely/very unlikely (15.2%).
These numbers are aligned with a large poll conducted across seven European countries where 40% of participants report vaccine hesitancy in the latest September survey (University of Hamburg). In another rapid report in November, 36% of Britons said they were uncertain/unlikely to take the vaccine (British Academy and the Royal Society).
Why might this be?
Our follow-up question may shed some light.
By inviting our participants to respond freely about the reasons for their choice above we have collected a corpus of detailed reasons for both vaccine hesitancy and adoption. With the most commonly used word presented in larger text in word clouds below, we begin to understand people’s views towards vaccinations. From left-to-right:
Figure 1. Likelihood of taking the COVID vaccine.
Unlikely and Very Unlikely
Respondents who were unlikely or very unlikely to take a vaccine spoke about the “lack of trust in the government”, the “unknown long-term side-effects” of the vaccine, “not feeling safe enough” to inject something into their body, and think it is better to wait and see as they are “not high-risk”.
Here’s what people said:
“Don’t trust a vaccine that has been developed so quickly without real understanding of possible long term dangers.”
“I am not in the high-risk group, I keep fit, healthy and considerate of my immune system. I also follow all the rules to protect other. The vaccine is very new and I would prefer not to take it and continue looking after mine and others health as I have been so far. I do take flu vaccine every year, had one this year already.”
“Not inclined to vaccines in general. I believe that our children our dangerously over-vaccinated and that their general well-being is impaired as a result. Definitely not intending to take a vaccine that has been rushed to market.
Respondents who were unsure were “afraid of the risks” and “side-effects” of vaccination. They spoke of the unknowns surrounding vaccine development, that they needed to do more research or wait for longitudinal findings to see if there are side-effects as they feel this was a “rushed” job. And again, a general sense of “distrust towards the government” for pushing for the vaccine.
“As a scientist myself I would want to be convinced of the science behind the vaccine and see proven efficacy in enough subjects before taking it myself.”
“Feel like others both within the UK and around the world are in need of it more than me.”
“I don’t really trust my government to create such important tasks like this. Who knows how many corners they cut? They still implement a highly unreliable rapid tests as a clearance for traveling and other outdoor activities. I think that says a lot about their capability.”
Likely and Very Likely
Respondents who were likely and willing to have the vaccine spoke about the strong “belief in science” and scientists, that “the world’s greatest minds are working on this”. Many people spoke about health as a public good, this was the “right thing to do”, wanting to “protect their loved ones and their community”, this is the way to get back to a “safe” community, “getting back to normality” and “help” stop the virus. Even within this group, there was a sliver of doubt about where the message is coming from: if the vaccine is endorsed by scientists/CDC/WHO people are more likely to adopt it while the growing sentiment of distrust in the government means people are less likely to take it.
“Belief in science, wanting more freedom to travel and go out.”
“Great university’s researching vaccines in the UK.”
“I have a friend who lost his life to it [COVID], another who suffered permanent lung & kidney damage, I don’t want to infect or put others in danger if I get it. I would like to know for myself obviously as well.”
“If CDC and WHO approves, I’d likely take it. I’m supportive of vaccines and trust scientific research. If pushed by the government, I’d be significantly less likely to trust it. It may also depend on how willing whoever produces the vaccine is willing to share it worldwide and continue with appropriate safety precautions.”
“It’s the right thing to do and I want COVID to get under control as soon as possible. Downloading an app on my phone and getting vaccinated is the least I can do to honour the efforts of all the frontline workers who have and are RISKING THEIR LIVES to keep us all safe.”
Many of the comments from our participants resonated with those of other studies including key concerns about the side-effects of the vaccine, and distrust in the government. Of course these are legitimate concerns that ought to be addressed. Even within the Likely/Very Likely group there is some doubt over the longer-term side-effects and whether individuals with pre-existing conditions may have bad reactions to the vaccine.
So what does this mean for society and policy?
This means we must come together as a global community. It is also evident from these comments that governments’ role in endorsing vaccines, perhaps well-intentioned, may not be perceived that way by the population. Thus, this means letting the scientists and science communicators do the talking. Have clear, smart, and accessible global campaigns to make sure everyone is up to speed on the facts about the vaccine. This means bringing together the smartest minds in marketing and PR to work with our scientists to take control of this virus.
We need an 80% community-level uptake of the COVID vaccine to protect all of us. One suggestion would be to try to convince the 20% ‘unsure’ group as they are perhaps more likely to swing to the adoption side than the antivaxxers. This means addressing people’s worries about side-effects and providing them with a clear cost-benefit analysis that reflects the true risk of not vaccinating.
The next few weeks will be crucial. All sorts of things may go wrong: from the supply-chain to the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine in a frozen box at -70C degrees and the receiving of two shots three weeks apart. Knowing about the psychological barriers towards the COVID vaccination, what we – the global community – need to focus on now is how to overcome this imminent hurdle.
Echoing two of the five recommendations from the British Academy and Royal Society rapid review, there is an urgent need to: 1) start an open and transparent dialogue with the general public surrounding the side-effects of the vaccine, efficacy and safety of the vaccination roll-out and 2) counter misinformation and fake news by empowering the public with the tools to spot and report misinformation.
With the scientists working non-stop to develop an effective vaccine to protect our community, essential workers working around the clock to keep our community running, what role will you choose to play in keeping our community safe?
This post was written by Dr Keri Wong, Assistant Professor Psyschology at the Department of Psychology and Human Development, UCL IOE (@DrKeriWong). Want to share your thoughts about vaccine and how COVID has impacted you? Visit UCL-Penn Global COVID Study or follow us on Twitter @GlobalC19Survey.
As lockdown eases in the UK, many people are populating the parks and the outdoors. The latest government advice for England told us to ‘stay alert’, to practice ‘social distancing’ and to be vigilant. This heightened alertness combined with accumulating uncertainties around COVID-19 are stressful. In fact, living with stress for long periods of time can take a toll on people’s mental health.
The question then is: If COVID-19 ishere to stay, what can we learn about people’s mental wellbeing now so we can help them later?
The UCL-Penn Global COVID-19 Study, which is still recruiting, aims to address this question. In collaboration with experts from five other universities1, we want to understand the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus on our mental health, physical health and trust in others. Some 1800 respondents from the UK, Greece, Italy, and the US have already taken part.
During the UK lockdown, we asked participants to identify sources of stress and the extent to which it causes them stress. Participants told us that they were experiencing ‘moderate’ to ‘a lot of stress’ from:
Other people not social distancing (51.8%)
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (e.g., when it will end, how it is transmitted) (50.8%)
Future plans (46.3%)
Mental Health (33.4%)
Boredom and loneliness (30%)
When broken down by country – UK, Greece, Italy, US, and Hong Kong, it is clear that:
Concerns over other people not social distancing (63.6% and 63.9%), mental health (42.7% and 35.6%) and boredom/loneliness (36.3% and 40%) were highest in the UK and the US respectively compared to Greece (43.8%, 25.1%, 18.3%), Italy (35.6%, 32.2%, 33.3%) and Hong Kong (39.4%, 18.2%, 22.7%) where the number of new cases and deaths have already plateaued during the same period; and
Participants from all countries were concerned about the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (48.5%-61.1%) and future plans (36.4%-54.2%).
Our study also look at people’s beliefs about social distancing measures. Of particular relevance to people returning to work, our UK participants reported the use of face covering in their community to be very low 0-30% compared to their counterparts in Italy (80%-100%), US (50%-80%), and Hong Kong (90%-100%). After months of debate around ‘face masks’ not being essential, the UK government has made the formal announcement of making ‘face coverings’ mandatory (4 June) on public transport as of on 15 Junewill be a nation-wide challenge. This behavioural change will require changing people’s beliefs about social distancing practices. With approximately half of UK respondents (45%) not firmly believing in the efficacy of wearing face masks outdoors – compared to Italy (78%), US (85%) and Hong Kong (97%) – the UK government will need to provide the public with more supportive and informative messages around face coverings.
What face coverings are encouraged if not surgical masks? How will families that are already disproportionately affected financially also afford face coverings? Could there be a nationwide scheme for a standard face covering?2
While COVID-19 has affected everyone, some are affected more than others. To rebuild our community and direct resources to populations in need, we must understand how COVID-19 is impacting us today. Our survey of adults during these challenging times and beyond can help assess the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and social relationships in the UK compared to other countries where lockdown policies are more strict or more lax.
As we continue to learn how COVID affects people’s lives, we hope to build a community for interested participants to share their lived experiences. We have collated some resources on our website and started a blogto inform people about our study findings.
Because if COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time, we should do everything we can to emerge from this stronger, more informed, and better prepared for the future.
University of Pennsylvania, University of Trento, Nanyang Technological University, University of Massachusetts Lowell and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
For example in Hong Kong, reuseable face masks are free and mailed to directly to all citizens who register their details on an online form. A similar arrangement is in place in South Korea, which has a very good track-and-trace system and encourages its citizens to collect reusable face masks at local convenient stores on specific days of the week, based on information on their identity card.
I hope you are staying healthy and well. Since my last update, you have been joined by 1400 volunteers around the world on this study! Like you, our team of experts have chosen to respond quickly in hopes to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on our health. We are happy that you have chosen to stay in touch and hope we can navigate the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 together.
Given that research can take a long time to bear fruit (and our study is still on-going) it may be some time before we can report our findings.
We have a plan.
In each fortnightly study bulletin, I will aim to:
Give you an update on our study and;
Share resources and fun facts that maybe helpful for you now.
This will come in the form of links to reliable resources, blog posts by our team, and videos/apps that we’ve come across with an international perspective wherever possible. We believe that having a platform to discuss what we are going through together is important in planning for the future.
As the WHO Emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan announced Wednesday, COVID-19 may not be going away. Thus, under these circumstances, longitudinal studies like ours may be even more important as we gather information on what are the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on our mental health and relationships.
Send us suggestions. Ask us questions. We would love to connect with you throughTwitter, Instagram, or Email!
Our study is still recruiting! Continue to share our survey with your network at www.globalcovidstudy.com until it closes in July. Any person 18+ can take part!
*NEW* in Nature Scientific Reportsby our study’s Dr Gialuca Esposito (University of Trento & Nanyang Technological University) shows that parents who are physically together are more aligned in their parenting responsibilities and practices. Learn more about the study below!
Uncertainty fuels worries, and knowledge is power. Here are two interactive tools that may address some of your questions:
Many of us may be frustrated by the uncertainties surrounding our future travel plans, finances, and the economy. Here’s a neat interactive infogram by theWorld Economic Forum from our Resourcepage that clarifies some of the inter-related industries affected by COVID-19.
Have you wondered if you are you at risk for COVID-19? Matimatica has created a ‘19 and me‘ risk calculator to give you a visual estimation of your likelihood of infection. This is a US application. It is not endorsed by us, but is data driven and interesting.
Mental Health Awareness Week (18 – 24 May 2020). This year’s theme is Kindness, which is so important pre-/post-COVID times. We will begin to explore this on our instagram next week. Please visit the Mental Health Foundation for more information.
17 days have passed since our survey went live. We are happy to report that we now have over 1000 people take part in the survey – thank you for your support! Our respondents are primarily from the UK, Greece, Italy, USA, and Hong Kong. Your responses are helping us better understand how COVID19 is affecting you and your family’s mental health, physical health, and relationships. As governments around the world consider new ways to ease lockdown and grapple with the uncertainty surrounding COVID19, your input has provided us with insight and knowledge that will help inform our future.
‘So what’s next?’
We want to…
1. Reach more people.
The next few weeks is important to us. As the UK considers easing lockdown, we want to reach more people to capture people’s experiences before the rules change. This way we can compare the results we’ve collected so far on lockdown experiences. Our team are working hard to disseminate our survey to as many people as possible. We still want to hear from people. After this stage, we will begin to look at and share initial results. So please share the survey if you can!
2. Share and build a community of resources.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for subscribing to us! My plan is to share our study progress with you, useful resources, and to answer any questions you may have. Given the expertise of our team, you may also have specific questions that one of us may be able to help with – we’d love to hear from you! Although the next official study survey only goes out in 6 months time, we want you to be comfortable enough to connect with us. I hope this website can be place for you to ask questions, get in touch, and to share your tips/insights about how you are getting along with COVID. We will continute to update the pages and share other Research Opportunities as well, as we think research on this topic is important.
3. Get to know you!
As researchers carrying out this project into the mental health of others – we want you to know that we are more similar to you than you might think. Some of us are parents also struglling with home schooling; some of us worried about family members in other parts of the world; and most of us, likely going through the same emotions/experiences as you. So – you are not alone. As we try our best to understand the impacts of COVID, it would be helpful to hear from you too @GlobalC19Study or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us what would be helpful to you!
Until my next update, stay safe. Let’s keep each other company and get through this together!
In under 100 hours of launching our survey, we have received over 250 responses from: Spain, Italy, India, Greece, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, UK, USA. We are grateful to these volunteers who represent students, individuals with existing health conditions, pre-professionals, self-employed/unemployed, parents with young children, carers, and frontline workers to name a few.
This study relies on word-of-mouth or ‘convenience sampling’ of the general population – so we hope you will consider sharing the survey (share with 5 friends!). This way we can get a more complete understanding of how COVID-19 is affect people from all walks of life.
To our Followers:
We understand that this detailed survey is just a start. A snapshot of what you may be going through. So, as we continue to reach more people and listen to their experiences we have compiled some credible Resources for you. This is not exhaustive, just a start. We would love for you to communicate your ideas/suggestions with us at email@example.com and/or tag us on Twitter #GlobalC19Study if you wish to share some useful information!
Wherever you are – locked down or not – we hope you feel safe, supported, and connected. You are not alone in this. It will get better. Thanks to everyone who has already shared, retweeted, and taken part in our survey!