What do people think about COVID-19?

Professor Karen Willis, from the College of Science, Health and Engineering, is part of an international team investigating how COVID-19 has influenced people’s views about health and wellbeing

Professor Karen Willis, a health sociologist in the School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, is part of an international team investigating how COVID-19 has influenced people’s views about health and wellbeing.

The research project, led by King’s College London, will explore how people think and feel about the risk of COVID-19 and how these thoughts and feelings may be different depending on personal experience with the virus.

“So much of this epidemic is about what we do, but it is also about what others do,” Willis explains. “Some people are very optimistic about their low likelihood of contracting the virus. Others are overly pessimistic and think they are more at risk than they are. We will be examining these perspectives to understand how people think about risk, and how that shapes community response to government directives such as lockdown or social distancing.”

Another important aim of the study is to understand how people’s access to outdoor space, support from family and friends, and cultural settings may influence how they think and feel about COVID-19.

“People all over the world have confronted changed living conditions as a result of the pandemic,” says Willis. “Lockdown can result in feelings of isolation. But some people have discovered unanticipated bright spots in their lives and activities. COVID-19 may have changed the way they respond to stress or their acceptance of situations they can’t control. It may also have allowed them to stop, reflect and gain perspective.”

The degree of benefit, Willis notes, is likely to be impacted by social situation. “Struggle is often reflected along well-defined socio-economic lines,” she says. “People with fewer resources within themselves or their immediate social circle are usually hit the hardest. A person who is a sole parent, for example, or a person without internet access, will likely see a reduced level of benefit.”

The research team will survey people in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, the United States, Europe and Australia. “The survey is entirely online, takes about 20 minutes to complete, and the respondents remain anonymous,” explains Willis. “Our study will provide both an in-country snapshot and an international comparison of lived experiences during COVID-19.”

“Understanding how people think about themselves and others is vital to the success of government measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, now and in the future,” she adds. “Our research will provide timely, policy-relevant knowledge about how people experience government directives in a pandemic, and the factors that shape their capacity to adjust to new ways of living and working.”

Survey participants are needed. Find out more.

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