Researchers to study how fears of Covid-19 impact daily lives of Scots over 50

A unique new research project will study the effect of fears of Covid-19 on the lives of people over 50.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a closed department store.
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a closed department store.

The 18-month study, lead by a multi-disciplinary team at Stirling University, will be the first of its kind to measure the extent to which concern about Covid-19 impacts everyday lives.

Researchers will survey people aged over 50 in Scotland to establish how the pandemic is influencing their decisions to socialise, visit family and attend medical appointments.

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They will also explore the extent fear will play in people’s decision to get vaccinated against the virus.

The study, called “The impact of COVID-19 Fear: evidence to inform social, health and economic recovery”, has been awarded £712,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

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It will be led by Dr Elaine Douglas, lecturer in global ageing at the University of Stirling.

She said: “Covid-19 has affected the way in which people connect, look after their health, work and spend. However, little is known about the role that Covid-19 fear plays in how people go about their everyday lives, particularly among older people, who are arguably most vulnerable to poor outcomes.

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“Our research will look at how people re-engage with society over the year ahead and provide insights for policy and public health messages.”

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Dr Douglas will work alongside economist Professor David Bell on the project, as well as Stirling colleagues: economist Dr Dave Comerford, social scientists Dr Louise McCabe, Dr Alison Dawson and Dr Cate Pemble, and health psychologist, Dr Lesley McGregor.

The study will produce regular rapid reports and policy briefings throughout its duration, with initial data due to be published in summer 2021.

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Dr Douglas added: “This research will provide insight into how people can be supported back into everyday activities. It will provide important information for the NHS on how to support those with COVID-19 fear to attend hospital appointments, cancer screenings or other health related appointments.

“It will also give an idea of people’s willingness to return to the ‘physical’ workplace, to go shopping again, or to meet friends in restaurants. These activities are significant for our individual wellbeing as well as our economic recovery.”

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