A new, multi-national study will examine whether social connectedness and compassion can help people cope better with the emotional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study is being conducted by researchers in 18 countries around the world and involves participants being asked to fill out a 30-minute online survey immediately, three months from now, and again six months from now.

“The pandemic is taking a large toll on the mental health and well-being of people across the world,” said Allison Kelly, professor at the University of Waterloo and lead Canadian researcher on the international team. “The study is looking at the emotional impact of the pandemic, and at whether compassion from and for others, and compassion for oneself, can reduce the psychological toll of the pandemic.”

The research is in its early stage, with the initial recruitment of participants and the first round of surveys to be completed by late May before physical distancing restrictions loosen. 

“The online nature of the study means people can participate in the research fairly easily from their own home,” said Kelly. “Surveys have been translated into multiple different languages, allowing researchers to learn about how people from countries and cultures across the world are coping with the pandemic.”

The results of the work are expected to be published in academic journals sometime in 2021.

“When we focus on physical health only, we can unintentionally overlook mental health. This research is important because it will reveal the ways in which the pandemic and physical distancing measures are affecting people’s mental health, while highlighting the factors that can help people around the world better navigate the extraordinary challenges we face,” Kelly said.

Further information on the study, including how to participate, can be found here.

Note: This research has not yet been peer-reviewed and is being released as part of UWaterloo’s commitment to help inform Canada’s COVID-19 response.

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