Behavioural & Cognitive Sciences

How do different confinement measures affect people across Europe?

Some of the first hardest-hit countries in Europe start planning to relax COVID-19 related restrictions. But how have those restrictions affected the populations? The University of Luxembourg launches a survey to compare the psychological effects of social distancing measures across Europe.

In less than a month, COVID-19 has profoundly changed our daily habits all over Europe. If no country on the old continent has been spared by the pandemic, some of them responded quite differently to contain its spread. While Italians could only leave their home for basic necessities, the French were allowed to be a maximum of 2 kilometers away from their houses, and Belgians could keep on sporting outside as long as they were alone. The Netherlands and Sweden did not opt for a total lockdown and kept bars and restaurants open.

Europeans are facing very different situation depending on their country of residence. Some saw their social interactions drastically reduced while others were moderately impacted. What are the consequences of social distancing measures on some aspects of our lives? Two researchers and their teams from the University of Luxembourg, Conchita D'Ambrosio and Claus Vögele, are launching an on-line questionnaire to compare the impact of different quarantine measures on the European population. 
«The changes we have been through have been so drastic, intense and sudden, that they must have some impact on our mental health, sooner or later. With our study we aim to understand what characterizes those individuals who manage their life better in the current situation” explains Conchita D’Ambrosio, an economist expert on the study of individual well-being. “Even if a great majority of people seems currently to be doing well and coping with the situation, this may not be the case for everyone”, adds Claus Vögele (psychologist and member of the advisory group set up by the government to assess COVID-related measures in Luxembourg.) He questions: “What about the most vulnerable ones? People who don’t have coping resources, who barely get by under normal circumstances? What about those who need social contact to survive this situation?”  
Social support and social contact are among the most important protective factors for mental health and well-being. Previous research has shown that social isolation resulting from preventive measures has a substantial negative impact on mental health. Yet it remains unclear which factors predict the levels of psychological distress caused by social isolation. What role play factors such as our personality, resilience, health anxiety, and emotion regulation for the way we cope with the situation? What are the effects of our socio-economic and demographic characteristics (e.g. housing, living conditions, education, economic status, family composition) on health outcomes during confinement?

200 questions, 6 countries, now and later

To answer these questions, the researchers created a survey of about 200 questions and are now looking for participants in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden to answer their questionnaire at least twice. “It takes approximatively 30 minutes to complete it” says Claus Vögele. “There are, of course, questions concerning how one is dealing with the current measures, but also questions on one’s health, personality, or personal situation. It’s very different to experience the confinement in Italy where you couldn’t leave your house than in Sweden where very little changes were put in place”, explains Conchita D’Ambrosio. 
Impacting today’s decisions, improving tomorrow’s prevention 
Through this research, they not only hope to understand better how we all respond in times of crisis but also to provide advice to decision and policy makers. “In the short term, this research project will enable us to compare the effects of the different confinement measures. This will allow us to better understand the psychological mechanisms associated with adverse events but also to support the development of prevention strategies to improve health outcomes in future, similar situations. In addition, the expected results will increase our understanding of how to adequately support individuals in the aftermath of the current and future crises” underlines Claus Vögele. 

If you live in one of the following countries, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, and would like to support this study, you can participate in the survey here. 

With the help of

Niccolo’ Gentile André Schulz
Anthony Lepinteur Zoé van Dyck
Giorgia Menta Greta Hansen
Remi Yin Raquel Gomez Bravo
Sonia Schifano Vinicius Jobim Fischer
Vincent Vergnat  

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19 11 2020
Experten geben keine Entwarnung

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According to the government of Luxembourg, there has been no increase in the number of suicides since March 2020.  Nevertheless, experts warn that it would be premature to give the all-clear: the psychological consequences of the Corona pandemic and its associated confinement measures are unclear at this time. Based on the results from the international survey COME-HERE, Professor Claus Vögele concludes in this interview that feelings of depression and loneliness have increased substantially over the last 6 months. These results do not bode well as loneliness and uncertainty can have complex effects on mental health over the longer-term.

09 11 2020
Tageblatt : Stresstest für jeden Einzelnen“: Psychologe Claus Vögele über die psychischen Folgen der Krise

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A survey to understand the psychological effects of social distancing measures in Luxembourg and the neighbouring countries.
In less than a month, COVID-19 has profoundly changed our daily habits. Between “home-office", “home-schooling” and only leaving our homes for basic necessities, our social interactions have been drastically reduced. Stress factors such as the loss of income, gloomy news and daily uncertainties must be added to this social isolation. If the need for social distancing measures is rarely questioned in principle, this does not mean that they are without consequences. Two researchers and their teams from the University of Luxembourg, Conchita D'Ambrosio and Claus Vögele, are launching an on-line questionnaire to better understand the impact of quarantine on the population in Luxembourg and the neighbouring countries.