B3766 - An exploration into the impact of social contact on the risk of depressive symptoms during COVID-19 findings from a prospective - 04/05/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Jessica Armitage | Co-Supervisor
Professor Claire Haworth, Eunhee Kim
Title of project: 
An exploration into the impact of social contact on the risk of depressive symptoms during COVID-19: findings from a prospective
Proposal summary: 

COVID-19 has resulted in significant increases in psychological distress, concerns, and depressive symptoms. This increased vulnerability may have resulted from environmental and social changes caused by the pandemic crisis. Social contact modalities changed drastically due to lockdown restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay at home and social distancing orders resulted in a decrease in in-person social contact, and a resulting increase in distant social contact via video calls, phone calls, and texts. Our study will explore whether these different forms of social contact influenced the levels of depression, and the possible factors driving this. Additionally, gender difference in the usage of social contact methods can have an association with the elevation of loneliness. Females are more susceptible to loneliness while keeping social distance due to COVID lockdown. Since females are more dependent on in-person social engagement, females could feel lonelier by the changes in social contact forms than males, which can further trigger depression. Hence, we will also consider whether the gender contributes to increasing depressive symptoms in relation to changes in social contact modalities caused by social distancing. Understanding how symptoms of depression may be predicted by different modes of social contact will prove key to ensuring those most at risk are supported to help prevent further increases in depression.

Impact of research: 
The research is extremely timely due to recent changes in social contact restrictions in the UK. By exploring possible benefits of in-person social contact, the present study could facilitate a crucial insight into its importance for mental health. By investigating predictors of symptoms of depression, our findings could also be used to help prevent later occurrences of depression by enforcing the importance of different forms of social contact. By also exploring the extent to which increases in depressive symptoms resulting from social contact may be explained by gender differences, increases in loneliness, and other COVID-related circumstances, our study will provide insight into how different forms of social contact may impact mental health.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 22 April, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 4 May, 2021
Immunology, Statistical methods, Statistical methods