About the project
Standing together – at a distance: how Danes are living with the corona crisis
We are in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis. A crisis triggered by the coronavirus, but its implications reach far beyond the scope of virology. Across the world, people are being asked to isolate and quarantine themselves, businesses are closing down, curfews have been introduced, and we are all supposed to wear face masks and keep a safe distance from one another. There is a need to document and investigate the mental-health effects of the preventative measures that are being implemented to contain the virus. You can read more about the project’s central aims and our research collaborations below.
Although researchers have begun studying Danes’ reactions to the so-called ‘corona crisis’, there is a lack of knowledge about how the chosen public-health measures are impacting mental health. Specifically, how is the pandemic together with the particular Danish combination of relative economic security, a lockdown of certain societal functions, and only partial restrictions on movement affecting mental health?
To address this, our research team initiated a series of timed online surveys and qualitative interviews to document the effects of the Danish lockdown on mental-health indicators over time. During the first societal lockdown that began in March 2020, our data collection focused on how the public-health measures affected worries, quality of life, social isolation, social relationships, and everyday behaviour within three groups: the general population, families with children living at home, and older people (aged 65 and above).
The Trend Direction Index (TDI) for the period 20 March to 16 April 2020, indicating the probability that the population average of each mental-health indicator was increasing or decreasing at specific time points. Click to enlarge
Our preliminary results suggest that, during this period, people in Denmark seem to have managed the lockdown without alarming changes in their mental health. In particular, the qualitative interviews documented significant variation in people’s experiences, suggesting that the lockdown’s effects on everyday life were very different depending on people’s individual life situations. While many found their lives deprived of elements they typically enjoy, others described the lockdown as a ‘shift in gears’ that allowed them to change focus and reflect on what is meaningful. However, the survey data also indicated that, in particular, young people aged 16 to 29 had a lower quality of life and suffered from loneliness due to social-distancing measures and other restrictions.
In the second period of data collection, which began on 10 September 2020, we are asking 250 different people from the general population (aged 18 and above) to answer our Copenhagen Corona-Related Mental Health (CCMH) questionnaire every other week. We are also conducting follow-up interviews with some of the people we spoke with during the first months of the pandemic to learn how they are handling the prolonged preventative measures. Moreover, we are planning to interview additional participants with a particular focus on young people to investigate how they are managing the ongoing social restrictions.
This project aims to provide insight into people’s experiences of social isolation, worries, loneliness, and quality of life as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Denmark. Collecting these data will allow us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the crisis and the effects of the preventative measures being instituted around the world. Our research may also elucidate the long-term effects of the societal lockdown in Denmark, which may inform governments and health authorities in how to manage both the current and future pandemics more effectively.
The ‘Standing together’ project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between three leading research environments: the Section of Epidemiology at the University of Copenhagen, the Center for Medical Science and Technology Studies at the University of Copenhagen, and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. We are also working with the Medical Museion and the Center for Healthy Aging, both based at the University of Copenhagen.
We have also established a collaboration with the Danish newspaper Politiken to present the project’s findings from a journalistic perspective. In this way, the project is both documenting the effects of the crisis as well as helping the public to understand and adapt to a quickly changing situation.
An overview of our other research partners can be found here. This project invites collaborations with both Danish and international researchers.