Investigations into the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Participants wanted: Bioinformaticians attempt to trace new COVID-19 hotspots - further studies concerned with psychological impacts

How do people deal with their feelings in everyday life during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus and at what locations might a new hotspot of COVID-19 infections be developing? These questions are the focus of two studies for which Heidelberg University scientists are looking for participants from all age groups. The studies are taking place online and are based at the Institute of Psychology and at the Bioinformatics division at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH). Further studies are being organised by researchers at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and the Institute of Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University Hospital.

Stimulated by comparable projects in other countries, the ZMBH bioinformaticians have devised a short questionnaire by which as many people as possible are to regularly report on their state of health. On principle, the questionnaire is anonymous, but the participants are asked to give their postcode. By this method, the researchers want to pinpoint the places where the share of persons with potential COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing or a high temperature, is concentrated or rising. "For every area we will count the number of people who feel at least slightly ill and try, early on, to define statistically conspicuous regional concentrations," says Dr Simon Anders, who heads the ZMBH Bioinformatics research group. This way the scientists hope to gain indications of where COVID-19 hotspots might be flaring up.

The Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy unit at the Institute of Psychology at Heidelberg University is working on the psychological aspects of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. In their study "The impacts of COVID-19 on regulating emotions in daily life" the researchers want to record and analyse psychological coping processes. "In this exceptional situation, the study aims to improve understanding of the development of emotional experience over time in daily life," underlines Luise Prussner, who is leading the study with Verena Zimmermann. The investigations, extending over several weeks, include a number of online questionnaires as well as twice using a smartphone app for a week.

A study of stress in connection with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, located at the Institute of Medical Psychology, is concerned with social isolation and psychobiological strain. A study by the Central Institute of Mental Health is focusing on addictive behaviour, e.g. alcohol and tobacco consumption or media use, during the time of contact restrictions and instructions to stay at home.

ZMBH questionnaire on state of health and well-being

Procedure/goal : Participants fill out a questionnaire with regular information about their state of health and well-being, giving their postcode. Researchers determine the locations at which the share of persons with potential COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing and a high temperature, is concentrated and rising. This way they hope to detect clusters of infections early on.

Study leader : Dr Simon Anders, Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH)

Impact of COVID-19 on regulating emotions in everyday life

Procedure/goal : Over a timespan of several weeks, participants are questioned online about their "emotional experience" of the pandemic; the investigation also involves using a smartphone app. The study’s goal is to better understand the development of "emotional experience" over time in this exceptional situation.

Study leaders : Luise Prussner and Verena Zimmermann of the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy unit of the Institute of Psychology

Stress study on the current situation

Procedure/goal : The online portion of the study comprises several sets of questions. Furthermore, a sample is taken of the participants’ saliva, which is evaluated in terms of stress-dependent hormones and enzyme. The goal is to gain information about psychobiological consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current restrictions on social contacts.

Study leaders : Dr Monika Eckstein, Dr Corina Aguilar-Raab, Dora Hopf and Ekaterina Schneider from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University Hospital

Survey on addictive behaviour during the contact restrictions

Procedure/goal : The online survey deals with alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as various behaviours such as media consumption and shopping patterns. The researchers are interested in whether the contact restrictions and instructions to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are leading to an increase in addictive behaviour.

Study leader : PD Dr Anne Koopmann from the Central Institute of Mental Health (in cooperation with a researcher from the Nuremberg Hospital)


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