Studying the effects of virtual substitutes for social interactions in a time of coronavirus

Virtual communication (created by epikisuperstar @ www.freepick.com)

Human beings are social animals who rely heavily on face-to-face interactions and touch to deal with everyday stresses. Socially well-connected individuals are healthier, live longer and are generally less stressed. However, due to the social restrictions engendered by the Covid-19 pandemic, most people are suddenly cut off from physical contact with their friends and must rely on virtual interactions for social supports. But to what extent can virtual interactions provide the same benefits as in-person interactions?

This question forms the focus of a new questionnaire study by Julia Lehmann and Colette Berbesque. As little is known of how effective virtual contacts are in the long run and in the absence of actual face-to-face cotact, the current crisis provides an ideal ‘experimental setting’ in which to study questions like this, which would otherwise be impossible and unethical to address. They are ultimately hoping to assess stress levels of study participants via hair sample analysis.

The study is now currently under way and the initial response has been strong, with over 150 responses so far.  If you are interested in taking part in the survey, you can do so here.

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