Category: Coronavirus

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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Let The Children Play: Research On The Importance Of Play, Digested

By Emma Young

As children head back to school, teachers and parents will of course be concerned about kids catching up on their education after the Covid-19 lockdowns. But, as many psychologists have pointed out, they need to catch up on play, too. So what does the research tell us about the need for and the importance of play?

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Episode 26: How Has The Covid-19 Pandemic Affected Our Mental Health?

This is Episode 26 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

What impact has the pandemic had on people’s mental health? In this episode, our presenter Ginny Smith talks to researchers who have been conducting work throughout the pandemic to understand the toll that it has taken on our wellbeing. Ginny learns about the different factors that can make us more or less vulnerable to these effects, finds out how pregnant women have fared during this stressful time, and also hears about emerging data that finds links between the virus itself and mental health conditions.

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Dr Susanne Schweizer, Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and Professor Paul Harrison from the University of Oxford.

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During Lockdown, Couples Were Happier When They Blamed The Pandemic For Their Stress

By Emily Reynolds

During the pandemic, many of us were locked down with little face-to-face contact with anybody other than our partners. Considering the stress of the time and the intensely close quarters we were in, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a recipe for serious tension.

A new study, however, suggests the reality might not be so cut and dry. Writing in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team led by Lisa A. Neff from The University of Texas at Austin found that the pandemic actually played an important part in people’s ability to deal with stress. When couples blamed their levels of stress on the pandemic, the team found, they were happier in their relationship.

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Regular Gamblers Turned To Online Gambling During The Pandemic

By Emily Reynolds

Gambling is big business in the UK. According to NHS Digital, 57% of men and 54% of women reported gambling in 2018, while the Gambling Commission suggests that online gambling grew by 8.1% from 2019 to 2020.

During the pandemic, gambling changed quite significantly: while consumers could still buy scratchcards and lottery tickets in supermarkets and off licenses, betting shops were closed and sports matches cancelled, leading many activities to move entirely online. And according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol, although the British public gambled less overall during lockdown, among regular gamblers, rates of online gambling increased substantially. 

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