As the COVID-19 pandemic is creating new universal norms, a new global study aims to analyse the psychological effects of social distancing on citizens around the world. The study is being led by Dr Bahar Tuncgenc, a Doctor and Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham School of Psychology. The study consists of a group of researchers from all over the world, including the University of Oxford. 

The survey will track respondents’ feelings and experiences of social distancing over a three-month period. The aim of the study is to better understand what makes people adhere to social distancing practices and how these practices affect the mood of participants. 

When an individual opens the survey link, it shows that the study is available in 12 languages. The stated goal of the study is to conduct research on the “behavioural changes affecting our daily lives in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.” 

Dr Tuncgenc told Cherwell: “We do not focus on any group in particular – anyone can take part in our study! We’re looking for hundreds of people from each one of our target countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Germany, Italy, Iran, India and more … The readers can see the full range of available languages on our website. As with all research tackling big questions, this one is a truly collaborative effort between 5 universities led by the University of Nottingham.”

Dr Tuncgenc spoke about how understanding the effects of a lack of social relationships was a reason for initiating this study: “The pandemic required people to change their daily life in drastic ways. As a very social species, we humans are drawn into close relationships, especially when things go awry. Understanding what motivates people to make such drastic lifestyle changes and how it affects their social lives was the main reason why I initiated this study.

“We have several hypotheses about this extremely complex situation. One of our key expectations is that behaviour change will occur as a result of what others in our close relationships do. Moreover, we’re expecting that although distancing will affect people’s well-being negatively, social support and closeness with one’s country may act as buffers to alleviate these negative effects. These questions have direct relevance to policymakers for deciding how to implement such measures as “social distancing” and for assessing its impact on people’s health.”

“Human beings are an incredibly social species,” said Dr Martha Newson, who is a researcher on the study from the University of Oxford School of Anthropology. “The effects of isolation could lead to severe, lasting effects on wellbeing and mental health.” 

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