Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Coronavirus: Mental health researchers promise results 'in days'

News about coronavirus pouring out of a smartphone Image copyright Emma Russell
Image caption The study will look at people's attitudes towards changing their behaviour as the Covid-19 epidemic progresses

The first results of a flash study into the psychological and social impacts of the coronavirus epidemic are expected "within days".

Academics from the University of Sheffield and Ulster University are trying to understand the mental health impacts of the current crisis.

It comes amid predictions of a rise in depression, anxiety and paranoia.

The team is surveying 2,000 people in the UK and then again in a month's time.

Researchers led by Professor Richard Bentall, in Sheffield, said there has been very little study of the psychological impacts of viral epidemics.

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Data that is available though suggests such epidemics may have severe social and psychological effects, and quarantining people may affect their mental health.

Residents asked to take part in the study will answer questions about Covid-19 health-related behaviours such as social distancing, hand washing and using face masks.

The study aims to understand how attitudes towards these measures and towards other people change as the epidemic progresses.

Dr Jilly Gibson-Miller, lecturer in health psychology at the University of Sheffield, said: "This is one of the first studies of the 'psychology of epidemics' during perhaps one of the biggest existential threats the world has faced this century.

"Our survey will allow us to begin to understand, in great depth, the psychological impact of this epidemic on our citizens and how this changes as the epidemic unfolds."

She added: "We know what an important role human behaviour plays in the spread of an epidemic.

"As a health psychologist, I'm particularly interested in the extent to which people are carrying out protective behaviours, such as hand-washing and social distancing, and whether they feel they have sufficient motivation, opportunity and capability to do so."

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