Assessing the Mental Impact of COVID-19

Jocelyn J. Bélanger, assistant professor of psychology, is working with 100 collaborators on five continents to identify psychological and cultural factors relevant to the spread of COVID-19 and its effect on societies.

The research will produce evidence-based reports informing policy-makers on the most promising avenues to thwart the spread of the virus on a regular basis.

This project consists of a 20-minute-long survey measuring COVID-19-relevant beliefs, fears, hopes, and frustrations. The research will also gauge predictors of self-containment and social distancing, attitudes toward government policies, reasoning, and behavioral self-reports.

The survey has been disseminated globally to 25,000 respondents in 68 countries in 20 languages. Investigators will ask participants to respond to the polls on a weekly basis.

“This allows our group to monitor the evolution of this pandemic to detect emerging trends, challenges, and potential solutions to thwart it,” Bélanger said.

The investigation he says is pertinent to understanding the psychological well-being of individuals under prolonged periods of social isolation and stress.

It will also gauge self-reported behaviors including hygienic measures, like washing hands, and respect of behavior, social distancing and teleworking relevant to minimizing the spread of the virus.

Finally, it will also measure cultural variables related to the spread of the pandemic, especially cultural cohesiveness, and attitudes toward visible minorities, which are often blamed for the crisis among populist groups.

In the next phase, the team will integrate the global psychological database to several open-source databases examining macro factors including containment laws and health policies worldwide, crime, food shortage, and available medical supplies shortage.

Once the data integration has been completed, the team will use machine learning and neural network analyses to model the spread of the pandemic and identify effective public health policies to contain it.