Categories
Uncategorized

‘What gives?’ Conflict in the time of Corona

Lockdown life has its ups-and-downs. Our daily routines have endured big changes and we feel the strain of spending unnatural amounts of time with our isolation partners. While some of us may appreciate spending more time with those who are close to us, others may not share this sentiment. More contact time may result in more conflict. Understanding why this happens and what we can do about it is important, lockdown or not.

In our previous post, we reported the top stressors that participants from the Global Covid Study found were most concerning during lockdown. In our recent Instagram poll, we found that over 70% of voters experienced household conflict during lockdown. So this a genuine concern.

So what causes conflict in the first place? 

While there may be many reasons, research has identified the following roots of cause that may be particularly salient during these challenging times:

  1. Misperception: believing something to be true without definitive proof. For example, believing your sister is lazy for leaving dirty dishes in the sink when in reality, she received an important phone call just as she was getting started.
  • Difference in opinion: you are annoyed at your sister for leaving dirty dishes in the sink while she thinks it’s not a big deal.
What can be done?

It’s easier said than done, but here are some good reminders:

REMAIN CALM 

The best way to address a problem without turning it into a personal attack or argument is to stay calm. When you feel yourself getting angry, deep breathing is an effective technique that eases stress. You can also try counting to 10 before responding to a loaded comment or even leaving the room and returning once you feel more relaxed. Another effective tip is to ask yourself the following question: ‘What will this achieve?’ More often than not, the answer is greater conflict.  

LET THINGS GO

If you do lose your cool, don’t fret. This happens to the best of us. However, what is more important is that you move on from it and let things go. Research has shown that allowing conflict to cause a rift between you and another person while isolating together won’t be conducive to either of your mental health. Further research has identified cognitive reasoning as an effective technique to keep arguments at bay. This is when you assess a situation from a third-person’s perspective to re-evaluate personal opinion. By reasoning cognitively, you may realise that you are in an ‘emotional’ state and that your behaviours and words are driven by emotion over reason and rationality. Research has also shown that this will in turn help you avoid saying something horrible you don’t mean.

With regard to family life, letting things go is of particular importance. Research has shown that household conflict can have adverse effects on children including sleep disturbance, anxiety, conduct problems and academic problems. It is important to recognise that although it is perfectly normal for parents and guardians to argue, engaging in frequent and unresolved conflict is what the literature identifies as negatively affecting children the most. Moreover, if the conflict is explicitely about children, research has shown children tend to blame themselves leading to feelings of guilt and sadness. So resolving conflict is an all round win-win solution!

FOCUS ON THE NEW OPPORTUNITIES 

The suggestion of a silver lining in a time of crisis can sometimes feel condescending. An inherently unpleasant situation doesn’t always warrant a ‘something good always comes from something bad’ approach. However, after accepting that lockdown gives rise to conflict, we can also accept that it has provided some of us with unique opportunities. Young adults who have moved back into their family homes, for example, are able to reconnect with family. It can feel quite nice to go for walks together, watch movies and simply hang out as a family more than you usually would. Therefore, don’t let conflict stop you from exploring the unique opportunities lockdown presents. You may surprise yourself and feel rather comforted. 

Remember, the glass is always half full and it is your perception that can keep things in perspective. A small dose of household conflict is normal, but the key lies in knowing how to come to a resolution quickly.


This post was written by Ms Ketki “Keya” Prabhu (@kkprabhu), a third year student on the BSc in Psychology with Education degree at UCL with minor comments from Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

How have you resolved conflict in your household? Please share your tips/tricks with us at contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!

Categories
Uncategorized

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!

Categories
Uncategorized

If COVID-19 is here to stay, how will it affect our mental health and trust in others?

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 is here 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.

Sources of stress reported by over 1800 respondents on our Global Covid Study survey during lockdown.

Initial findings

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:

  1. Other people not social distancing (51.8%)
  2. The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (e.g., when it will end, how it is transmitted) (50.8%)
  3. Future plans (46.3%)
  4. Mental Health (33.4%)
  5. Boredom and loneliness (30%)

When broken down by country – UK, Greece, Italy, US, and Hong Kong, it is clear that:

  1. 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
  2. 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 June will 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

Source: Hong Kong governenet scheme for free reusable face masks for its citisens. Online registration required. https://www.nonwovensnews.com/consumer-products-news/14965-extra-protection-for-hong-king-citizens

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 blog to 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.

Image by mattthewafflecat from Pixabay

  1. University of Pennsylvania, University of Trento, Nanyang Technological University, University of Massachusetts Lowell and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  2. 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.

This is a repost of the original post by the Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 9 June 2020. This post is written by Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong), Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University College London, UK and PI of the Global Covid Study.

If you have any questions and/or comments, please post below or email contact@globalcovidstudy.com. We would love to hear from you!
Categories
Uncategorized

Think positive thoughts: What is the pandemic ‘Pet Effect’?

In the start of a series of blogs, we will explore interesting topics during and after lockdown, incorporating initial findings from the Global Covid Study wherever possible.

The theme this week is worries about our pets.

Small doses of stress are healthy, but too much may be exhausting. According to initial results in our survey outlined in Figure 1:

  • Other people not social distancing (51.8%) is the number 1 worry, followed closely behind in second place;
  • The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (e.g., when it will end, how it is transmitted) (50.8%) and
  • Future plans (46.3%) in third.

An often neglected worry that is less commonly discussed in the media yet features is endorsed by 2.4% of respondents at the end of the spectrum are animal lovers who are particularly worried about their furry animals. What do we know?

Figure 1. Bar chart ranking sources of stress that people have identified during lockdown between 17 April to 28 May 2020.
Pets during and after the Pandemic

The week before the UK lockdown on 23 March saw a sharp surge in pet adoptions. More than 150 dogs and cats reportedly found new homes in London. This is welcome news for pets, and new owners.

But pet ownership is a huge responsibility, and a long-term commitment. Whilst adopting during the pandemic may provide owners with more time to train their pet, more attention to pets, and better relationships (useful sources here), it is important to remember our commitment to pets even after the pandemic. Here are some tips to remember:

  1. Whenever you go out with your pet, make sure they stay at least 2 meters away from others. Even though pets are not known to transmit the virus, the first known case of a tiger in the New York Bronx zoo, and two house cats in New York has made headlines for testing positive for COVID-19.
  2. Cover their paws during walks or clean them before entering your house. Generally, bathing your pet often and thoroughly wash your hands after you’ve been in contact with them are likely good habits to adopt.
  3. Unless your dog requires urgent treatment, avoid going to the veterinary. Further advice on animal care can be found on the UK government website here.
Pets improve your health

While the health benefits of pets, or the ‘pet effect‘ have initially been mixed, the field has grown demonstrated that the effects are largely positive.

  1. Pets are a loyal, accessible source of support and companionship especially during times of crisis. A recent meta-analysis of 17 studies found that pets make good companions to people suffering from mental health problems by supporting individuals psychologically and emotionally and those with/without cardiovascular risk.
  2. Pets may help take our minds away from the daily upsetting news, negative feelings and experiences, yet promote regular routines in lifestyle such as going for a walk, playing ball, and cuddling, which has been found to have health benefits.
  3. Pet ownership has been found to increase self-esteem, decrease loneliness and increase physical fitness. These positive feelings – higher level of satisfaction and companionship – also extend to younger pet owners compared to other pet owners.
Other pet news involved with COVID-19
  • Through their extremely strong sense of smell, dogs can detect low concentration of volatile particles, making them effective ‘sniffers’. A pilot training program from the University of Pennsylvania is using scent detection dogs to discriminate between COVID-19 positive and negative participants. Although it may not be 100% accurate, dogs can help sniff out those who need help faster and in a safer way, and in turn help the healthcare system.
  • On other ocassions, therapy dogs have been particularly helpful in reducing anxiety/stress amongst students (which in turn improves attendance) and in therapy with different populations including children with autism and patients with dementia and other pre-existing health conditions – although more evidence from randomised-controlled trials are needed to test the efficacy of dog-assisted therapy.

Regardless of what your position is with pets, we must protect pets and people during this pandemic. For more pet advice see Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

This post was co-written by Ms. Laetitia Al Khoury (@LaetitiaAK), a MSc student on the Masters in Child Development degree at UCL and Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

How do pets make you feel? Do you have a story to share about you and your pet? Please send your suggestions to contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!


Categories
Uncategorized

Feeling lost during lockdown? Here are some resources for you.

Hi Everyone!

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:

  1. Give you an update on our study and;
  2. 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 through Twitter, Instagram, or Email!


Research.

  • 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 Reports by 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!

For Parents.

For you.

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 the World Economic Forum from our Resource page 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.

The above list is not exhaustive. For other COVID resources check out: WHONHS, YoungMinds Charity, What Works Wellbeing, and Samaritans.

Until next time, have a lovely weekend and stay healthy!

Keri

On behalf of the Global Covid Team


Do you have comments about the above? Let us know what you think through Twitter, Instagram, or Email! Once again, thank you for your support – We really appreciate it!


Categories
Uncategorized

Our first 1K supporters!

Dear Followers,

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 contact@globalcovidstudy.com. 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!

Best wishes,
Keri

On behalf of the Global Covid Study Team

Categories
Uncategorized

Survey update

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 contact@globalcovidstudy.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!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Keri

– On behalf of the Global Covid Study