Jan 10, 2022

Getting back in touch: Emotional pathways to a post-pandemic world

Sheffield project image cropped

Social interactions are pivotal to psychological well-being. It is thus unsurprising that the social isolation measures put in place from early 2020 to mid-2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have had a detrimental impact on people’s mental health. In the last months, following the development and rollout of effective vaccines, social isolation measures were at least partially lifted or made more flexible in many countries. However, because of the new Covid-19 variants and the lack of a global approach ensuring equal vaccine access in all countries, the situation remains uncertain.

The uncertainty associated with the Covid-19 crisis is likely to generate conflicting psychological demands in individuals. On the one hand, people are eager to revert back to their pre-pandemic social habits; on the other hand, they want to protect their health and might start thinking of social isolation measures as inevitable for the foreseeable future.

The aim of this research project is:

(1)   to run cross-cultural studies on people’s emotional responses to the current stage of the pandemic.

(2) to inform public health strategies that will maximise emotional well-being in the next phases of the pandemic.

We intend to study people’s emotional responses because it is well-known that emotions play a key role in psychological well-being, as well as in shaping social perceptions and motivating behaviour. In particular, we shall explore to what extent people are experiencing mixed emotions (e.g., fear and hope) in response to the conflicting psychological demands generated by the pandemic, and how these complex emotions correlate with factors such as degree of compliance to social isolation measures, political beliefs, vaccine hesitancy, and mental health.

We will study subjects from diverse cultural backgrounds who are living in countries that have different access to vaccines and have adopted different responses to the pandemic, namely, Brazil, Ghana, Taiwan, and the UK. On the basis of our results, we shall produce policy briefs tailored to the different socio-cultural contexts under investigation. Our key objective is to generate evidence-based recommendations that will promote long-term emotional well-being, develop resilience, and foster post-traumatic growth.

Our team is made up of philosophers, psychologists (social, health, experimental, and clinical), social and political scientists, and experts in public health working in universities across four continents (see participating universities). We thus have the distinctive capacities (i) to tackle this crisis in a way that is sensitive to both its cultural and geographical complexity, and (ii) to develop interventions that are informed by a wide array of academic disciplines and tools.

Our research will contribute to the WUN RDF aim to produce research-based interventions to help people cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3: “Good Health and Well-Being”, which stresses the role of well-being and preparedness in sustainable development.