Category: Coronavirus

Text message “nudges” that initially increased Covid vaccine uptake were not effective later in pandemic

By Matthew Warren

Last year a paper made headlines with the finding that basic text message reminders can increase uptake of the Covid vaccine. In fact, we covered the research right here at Research Digest. As we wrote at the time, the results showed that simple techniques to “nudge” people into taking the vaccine could have a substantial impact if applied across the population.

But according to a new study in Nature, these nudges have a pretty limited shelf-life. The team finds that timing really matters: while text message reminders increased uptake immediately after the vaccine became available, later in the pandemic they were no longer effective.

Continue reading “Text message “nudges” that initially increased Covid vaccine uptake were not effective later in pandemic”

People think they’re less likely to get Covid from friends than from strangers

By Matthew Warren

Social distancing has been a key part of the pandemic response: we all know that our chance of infection is reduced if we minimise the contact we have with others. Yet there are countless stories of people covertly meeting up with friends and family even at the height of lockdown.

Clearly many of those who disregarded the rules did so because of a desire for social interaction and support. But a new study in Humanities & Social Sciences Communications suggests there may be another reason too: we simply underestimate the risk of contracting Covid-19 from friends.

Continue reading “People think they’re less likely to get Covid from friends than from strangers”

Can memes help people cope with pandemic-induced anxiety?

By Emily Reynolds

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our collective mental health, from its effects on the experience of postnatal depression among new mothers to the ongoing impact of post-Covid brain fog. Research has also looked at what might remedy some of these negative effects — engaging in meaningful activity, for example, or making changes in our lives to feel more in control.

Umair Akram and colleagues explore another potential technique in their paper in Scientific Reports —looking at memes. They find that pandemic-related memes could provide one coping mechanism for people experiencing anxiety, with anxious people more likely to find them funny, relatable, and shareable. 

Continue reading “Can memes help people cope with pandemic-induced anxiety?”

Calls To Mental Health Helplines Increased Early In The Pandemic

By Emily Reynolds

From early 2020, concerns were raised about the impact of the pandemic on mental health. The stresses of lockdown, social isolation, financial precarity, and widespread grief were all considered to be potential triggers for poor mental health, along with issues such as increased domestic violence.

A new study, published in Nature, looks at what helpline calls can reveal about mental health during this period. It finds an increase in calls to helplines during the early days of the pandemic, largely driven by fear, loneliness, and worries about physical health.

Continue reading “Calls To Mental Health Helplines Increased Early In The Pandemic”

Developments In Psychology’s Covid Research

By Emma L. Barratt

Early in the pandemic, there was a rapid shift in the pace of research. With the situation evolving quickly, lockdowns coming into effect, and the massive loss of life that followed, researchers across academia were racing against the clock to produce papers.

This haste was unusual for most scientists, more used to detailed scrutiny, further investigations, and collaboration. As a result, some were concerned about the rigour of papers that would ultimately see the light of day. Early on, psychologist Vaughan Bell tweeted with regards to Covid research, “If it’s urgent, the urgency is to do it right”. Now, almost two years into the pandemic, we can begin to assess how robust our efforts were, and see where developments are leading us.

Continue reading “Developments In Psychology’s Covid Research”

“Zoom Fatigue” Disproportionately Affects Women And New Hires

By Emily Reynolds

Anyone who has worked from home will probably be familiar with the miserable, draining feeling of having spent too much time on Zoom. Such is the pressure of all-day-every-day video calling that some companies have even announced Zoom-free Fridays to give employees a little time away from their screens.

The fact that video-calling is tiring, then, will not be news to many of us. But a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology explores in more detail who is affected the most, finding that both gender and length of time spent within an organisation both impact fatigue. And this suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to combatting video call burnout may not work for everyone.

Continue reading ““Zoom Fatigue” Disproportionately Affects Women And New Hires”

The Pandemic Has Left Us Wanting More Personal Space — Even In Virtual Reality

By Emma L. Barratt

The boundaries of personal space aren’t set in stone. They even vary widely from person to person, between cultures, and between environments (for example, we might give strangers a wide berth on the pavement, yet end up shoulder to shoulder on trains). And though it may not feel like it on public transport, personal space is a consideration in everything from the design of buildings to logistics for large events.

In 2020, Covid brought a whole new element to the table in terms of our comfort levels around other people. Maintaining a physical distance was one of the few things we could do for many months to limit the risk of infection, so for many of us, the personal space boundaries we were used to suddenly became no-gos.

This change is fantastically illustrated by a new preprint from Daphne Halt and team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The researchers believe that our personal space preferences not only tell us about the psychological effects of the pandemic, but may be of use as an indicator of progress towards regaining normality.

Continue reading “The Pandemic Has Left Us Wanting More Personal Space — Even In Virtual Reality”

Domestic Violence Increased During Lockdown In The United States

By Emily Reynolds

From the very beginning of the pandemic, activists and charities raised concerns that lockdown could be having an impact on domestic violence. Women’s Aid noted that home is often an unsafe environment for those experiencing abuse, while earlier this year Refuge stated that they’d seen a 60% increase in monthly calls to their National Domestic Abuse helpline.

A new study, published in Psychology of Violence, looks at rates of intimate partner violence during the pandemic in the United States. Like data from the UK, it suggests that domestic violence increased during lockdown — and that this was particularly linked to stress.

Continue reading “Domestic Violence Increased During Lockdown In The United States”

First-Hand Reports Of “Brain Fog” Highlight Struggles Of Those Living With Long Covid  

By Emma L. Barratt

Around one in five of those who have recovered from Covid-19 report ongoing symptoms, also known as long Covid. Experiences with this new condition are varied, and several symptoms are neuropsychological in nature.

One such symptom is brain fog. Though not a medical diagnosis in itself, this term is recognised by many health professionals, and refers to a fluctuating and varied set of symptoms which severely affect the sufferer’s ability to think clearly, or conduct their lives as they previously have.

Brain fog is often thought of as a benign, non-specific symptom, and in some circles is even dismissed as malingering. But in fact, it’s a symptom widely associated with chemotherapy, an issue for 40% of those with HIV, and source of frustration for many during pregnancy, amongst other medical conditions. Several neurological mechanisms have been proposed, but as of yet scientists don’t agree on the exact physical cause. As such, research looking into this after-effect of Covid is likely to garner a wide array of responses.

At this stage, understanding the experience of brain fog in long Covid is important — in order to tackle a new condition, researchers must first obtain a thorough description of the problem. This is the starting point from which further research can truly begin. To this end, researchers based at Oxford University recruited 50 participants from previous long Covid studies and online long Covid support groups to participate in remotely-held focus groups.

Continue reading “First-Hand Reports Of “Brain Fog” Highlight Struggles Of Those Living With Long Covid  “

“Claim Your Dose”: How Text-Message Reminders Can Increase Uptake Of COVID-19 Vaccines

By Emma L. Barratt

Overcoming psychological barriers to vaccination remains a significant hurdle for COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Any given COVID-19 news feature will remind you that vaccine hesitancy is rife, especially in countries such as the United States. Compounding the issue further, even those who fully intend to get their jab can be forgetful or procrastinate, further hampering efforts to get shots in arms.

As such, it’s vital to develop an effective toolbox to make it as effortless and appealing as possible for patients to book and turn up for their appointments. And though they may seem insignificant, one of the most useful behavioural nudges we have at our disposal is the mighty reminder message.

Crafting the wording of a reminder that packs a punch is no easy feat. As with most things in psychology, individual differences can greatly affect the response to any given nudge. But, thanks to research from Hengchen Dai at UCLA and team, we now have a better impression of how text-message reminders can impact vaccine uptake, as well as how to word them.

Continue reading ““Claim Your Dose”: How Text-Message Reminders Can Increase Uptake Of COVID-19 Vaccines”