#Isolife: Exploring the effects of COVID-19 on social connectedness and mental health

16 September 2020

Professor Banwell and team awarded $199K to investigate the impact of COVID-19 social connectedness and mental health.

Social distancing has proven vital in our efforts to combat COVID-19, but the feeling of isolation that may come with it has impacted mental health. With higher levels of psychological distress in Australians reported since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to investigate this issue further.

“We want to understand the relationship between lockdown and efforts to socially distance with how that affects people’s mental health,” says Professor Cathy Banwell.

“In particular, we want to give a voice to groups often overlooked such as young people, communities living on state borders, and people in coercive relationships.”

Professor Banwell leads an interdisciplinary team* from RSPH that aims to unpack and address the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 and its containment measures, and have been awarded $199K by the Commonwealth Department of Health to undertake this research.The team are conducting in-depth phone interviews with people especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, delving into their lived experiences and how their community have been affected. This qualitative approach will facilitate a deeper understanding of factors that may help or hinder Australians’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to understand and unpack what experience during COVID-19 is like. How it makes people feel, and explore some of the strategies that people use to cope,” says Banwell.

The team hope this research will inform measures that promote community functioning and social connectedness, such as informing effective policy and practices.


*The team conducting this research includes Professor Cathy Banwell, Dr Liana Leach, Dr Christine Heyes LaBond, Dr Tinh Doan, Professor Phil Batterham, Associate Professor Alison Calear, Dr Anna Olsen, Dr Erin Walsh from RSPH, and Associate Professor Christine Phillips ANU Medical School.