Psychology study looks for insight into coping with social distancing

Carla Strickland-Hughes

Carla Strickland-Hughes

Social distancing is a term almost no one had heard of at the beginning of this year, but now it rules over the everyday lives of us all. That has prompted psychology professor Carla Strickland-Hughes to research how we are coping with isolation. 

Strickland-Hughes and her research partner at UC Riverside, Rachel Wu, have received a $132,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study risk and resilience in terms of social distancing among people 18 years and older. 

“One big question is identifying what those factors are that might help people get through the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions without negative outcomes like increased depression, social isolation and loneliness and looking at whether those are different across age groups,” Strickland-Hughes said. 

They are looking for 300 volunteers in Southern California’s Inland Empire to participate in the study. Participants will answer a series of questionnaires during and after quarantine. 

Strickland-Hughes is also conducting a separate survey of Pacific students that will provide insight into the impact of reading COVID-19 news. 

A unique twist to the NSF study is that prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Wu and Strickland-Hughes were already studying how older adults adapt to new situations by learning skills that keep them engaged and mentally sharp. The researchers will be able to compare results from the new study with results from their ongoing research.

“We might find similarities, for example, between younger adults and the older adults who took part in our earlier intervention. That would be interesting to see,” Wu said.

The findings from these studies could be used to help develop interventions to reduce the negative effects of social isolation, especially among older people.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the NSF study should email, and anyone interested in the study with Pacific students should email