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Adam Kuczynski and Jonathan Kanter’s social distancing study has become a national effort to help cope with the crisis. You can read more about it in this UW News story.

Local response to UW social isolation study leads to national effort

Kim Eckart UW News

Social distancing guidelines during COVID-19 have prompted UW psychology researchers to launch a national study of how people are coping.

Before word got around of graduate student Adam Kuczynski’s social distancing study last month, he and his advisor, Jonathan Kanter, had hoped a couple hundred people would sign up.

The study, focused on how King County residents spend their time during COVID-19 physical isolation, drew 500 participants. And very quickly, a theme emerged.

“The response from the public and the media to our first survey was overwhelming,” said Kanter, a research associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington. “The main question we heard over and over again was, what should someone do to best cope with the crisis?”

Participants in the UW COVID Coping Study must be at least 18 years old, live in the United States and have a smartphone that can receive text messages.So with most states now under stay-at-home orders, Kanter and his team this week launched a new study, aimed at a national audience, to test whether a motivational, mental health tip each day changes participants’ behavior during social distancing, and improves their mental and relational health.

"Many of us right now are overwhelmed and are trying to sort through all the opinions, advice, and suggestions that are flooding social and news media. We are hoping that our tips will cut through all that noise. "

—Jonathan Kanter / Department of Psychology

Like the original social distancing study, which will continue to check in on participants for several months, the new research relies on people’s use of smartphones to take a survey each night about their mood and activity throughout the day. The new research will follow the same process each day for a month, but for two of the weeks, half of participants will be sent daily text messages with suggestions about how to cope – breathing exercises, for instance, tips for reaching out to friends and family, or audio clips or links with more detailed information, like how to have helpful conversations with others.

“The first month of our research suggests that, while many of us are coping well and adapting to our new normal, others are suffering in different ways. Social interaction has decreased substantially, loneliness is high, and substance use has increased for a substantial portion of our sample. We are concerned and want to help,” Kuczynski said.

Read the entire article here.