Jayashree MohantySocial work professor Jayashree Mohanty is heading a multinational research project into how families are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

UWindsor researcher to study effects of social isolation on families

With people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, a UWindsor researcher is studying the stresses on families during this period of social isolation.

“This cross-country comparison study will help to understand the different ways people cope with social isolation and social distancing during pandemics,” said social worker professor Jayashree Mohanty, principal researcher in the study.

“The results could also be transferable to other situations that people may find themselves isolated from others.”

A recent literature review published in The Lancet suggests the effects of quarantine may include symptoms of post-traumatic stress, confusion, and anger. But there has been no research into how people cope or may be resilient toward social distancing and the related mental health impact, Dr. Mohanty said.

“No one has looked into this,” she said. “We want to know how people are dealing with these stressors that we were not prepared for.”

Mohanty praised UWindsor doctoral candidate Amy Alberton, who is helping her with the project. They are collaborating with researchers from the University of Wyoming, Yonsei University in South Korea, and the National University of Singapore who will survey citizens in their home countries. The researchers will share their findings to compare how people in the different countries respond to social isolation.

Mohanty said she is hoping to recruit 2,000 people to take part in the research. To participate, fill out the anonymous survey online.

There will be questions about perceived sources of stress, the relationship between stress and family dynamics and mental health, and how social networks may help in dealing with the challenges of social isolation, Mohanty said.

“Are we, as humans, as resilient as we think? How do we socialize while social distancing? What are some of our behavioural and emotional reactions to the changes caused by COVID-19?”

Mohanty has receive a seed grant of nearly $5,000 — $2,500 from UWindsor’s Office of Research and Innovation and $2,500 from the WE-Spark Health Institute, a research partnership involving the University of Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and St. Clair College. WE-Spark and the university have teamed up to fund 21 local COVID-related research projects.

—Sarah Sacheli