Social relationships in a pandemic

The project investigates how social relationships influence health-related behaviours and psychological well-being during a pandemic, and how we can repair rifts with friends or family after disagreements about pandemic policies.

  • Project description

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    Empirical studies involving citizen science will assess the impact of social processes in adult family and friendship dyads as well as in social groups, and of policy measures on health-protective behaviours and social and psychological well-being. The results will be relevant for the Covid-19 pandemic and future crises. The studies aim to establish links between social factors and various outcomes in the pandemic. They will develop a community-based programme to resolve conflicts between close social partners resulting from polarised attitudes to preventive measures, e.g. face masks, social distancing, vaccines. A computerised game will allow to model how identifying with a social group affects the adoption of health-related behaviours intended to protect everyone during a health crisis.

  • Background

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    Adherence to protective behaviours is key to containing infectious diseases. The standard theories underlying promotion of such behaviours focus on people’s beliefs and self-regulation. These individual-centred approaches neglect the influence of the social context (family, friends) on health behaviors, despite its recognised importance for health. Furthermore, social norms of the ingroup and a strong social identity with the group affect the adoption of health behaviours.

  • Aim

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    The aim of the project is to provide knowledge about the role of social relations in adopting health-related behaviours during a pandemic. Moreover, it will develop a protocol for a community-based intervention to resolve conflicts between close social partners arising from disagreements about crisis-related measures. Empirical evidence will be collected on the role of social identity in adopting health-related behaviours.

  • Relevance

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    The project will help fill the gap in knowledge about the impact of social partners and groups in supporting behaviours that prevent the spread of infections. Previous Covid research has focused either on the individual (e.g. personal attitudes) or on the larger social context (e.g. vaccination policies). This project will identify the social factors that promote (or hinder) health-related behaviours as well as social and individual well-being in pandemics and comparable crises.

  • Application

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    The project will deliver correlational, intervention-based, and experimental evidence on how to apply the beneficial effects of social relationships on psychological well-being to the broader population. A citizen science approach will involve community members in the development of a community-based intervention program for low-threshold mediation to prevent conflicts between close social partners (friends, family) arising from disagreements about policies during crises in general.

  • Original title

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    Promoting health-protective behaviours and well-being in pandemics: The role of social relationships