About the project

A 'Stay safe, stay apart' notice on the ground

The C19PRC Study

The scale of the recent COVID-19 outbreak has been unprecedented. Ordinary people have experienced sudden and drastic changes to they way they live, work and socialise with their families and friends. We know from previous research conducted in response to outbreaks of other infectious respiratory diseases, such as SARS or the H1N1 flu virus, that there is considered potential for the health and wellbeing of the general public to be negatively impacted by government-imposed restrictions which are necessary to prevent the spread of highly contagious viruses.

That's why Staff in the Department of Psychology at the Universities of Sheffield and Ulster, led by Professor Richard Bentall, in collaboration with colleagues at the University College London, the University of Liverpool and Royal Holloway University of London set up the C19PRC Study. This unique study, which was launched in late March 2020, when the pandemic was in its earliest phases in the UK, aims to monitor and assess the long-term psychological, social, economic and political impact of the pandemic on the lives of ordinary adults in the general population.

UK Survey

The main UK C19PRC survey launched on 23 March 2020 (Wave 1), the day that a strict lockdown was enforced across the UK.

The study aims to measure impacts of the pandemic on people’s mental health, their attitudes towards others and their political views, and understand how these change as the pandemic progresses through the population, and how these changes are related to appropriate changes in health-related behaviour. We want to understand how these impacts are related to exposure to infected people and beliefs about the virus and the pandemic, and will also look at how these impacts are explained by psychological factors which may make some people cope better with the pandemic than others. It is hoped that the findings of our study will help inform the better management of future public health crises.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented global restrictions on freedom of movement, social and economic activity. Pandemics may cause fear in the population, affecting behaviour which in turn may propagate or restrict the further spread of the virus. Social and economic restrictions may also have a major impact on population mental health, especially affecting vulnerable groups, influencing the nation's ability to recover once the pandemic is over.

Professor Richard Bentall

Principal Investigator of the C19PRC Study

We recruited adults into our study on the basis of their age, sex and level of income, amongst other demographic factors, which gives us a high degree of confidence that the behaviours, experiences, attitudes and beliefs of these adults closely reflect those of all adults living in the UK. We collected detailed information on all aspects of our respondents lives, including their psychological and physical health, their engagement with social distancing and other hygienic practices, their thoughts and beliefs in relation to a potential vaccine for COVID-19, their political views, as well as their level of satisfaction in relation to how their government is managing the crisis. Over 2,000 adults in the UK completed the Wave 1 survey in March 2020.

We intend to follow these adults up multiple times throughout 2020 and 2021 using a variety of different methods to develop a full, comprehensive picture of how adults are adjusting and adapting their lives in order to find a new normal way of living. We have already conducted our first four follow-up surveys in April 2020 (Wave 2), July/August 2020 (Wave 3), November/December 2020 (Wave 4), March/April 2021 (Wave 5), August/September 2021 (Wave 6), and Wave 7 (November/December 2021). Our Wave 8 survey was launched in May 2022, more than two years after the first national lockdown in the UK. 

Waves 1 - 6 of the C19PRC Study data are publicly available. 

Read more about our findings so far

Add-on studies

There are several additional strands to the C19PRC Study:

Qualitative interviews

We are also conducting telephone interviews on a subsample of individuals from the study. These interviews have been conducted with vulnerable groups that have been identified within the sample, including older people and parents with young children, as well as healthy adults. Sixty six qualitative interviews were conducted early in the lockdown, and a further 54 follow-up interviews were conducted during early 2021. It is hoped that this will give us a more detailed insight into the lived experience of these individuals during the pandemic, including how their lives and routines have changed and how they feel about the future.

Our qualitative data will be available via the C19PRC OSF page in July 2022.

Cognitive tasks

This study examines how characteristics of decision-making predict people’s ability to follow social distancing guidelines, as well as those who have experienced poor mental health outcomes as a result of lockdown. We measured participants’ delay discounting preferences (whether they preferred an immediate or delayed reward) and patch foraging behaviour (how they evaluated the trade-off between exploiting a known resource and exploring an unknown one) in a sample of 442 participants. Our findings suggest that people who were more sensitive to the size of the rewards during delay discounting were less likely to follow social distancing rules (such as staying 2m away from others) and experienced higher levels of anxiety symptoms. In addition, under-valuing recent information while patch foraging predicted greater violation of social distancing guidelines (such as gathering in large groups). These findings can help to guide interventions that aim to increase uptake of social distancing measures whilst minimising negative impacts to mental health.

Experience sampling study

An experience sampling methodology study (an app-based diary study) was conducted in December 2020 on a subsample of approximately 100 individuals who had taken part in the main survey. Both healthy adults and those with pre-existing health conditions were recruited. This study monitored how people were feeling and what they were doing in real time, at intervals throughout a given day. The aim of this study was to capture momentary fluctuations in mood and health-related behaviours during the UK's second wave of infections and to provide a more objective measurement of engagement with protective health behaviours, such as social distancing. 

Young people survey

It is critical we also understand the consequences of this pandemic on the mental, physical and social well–being of young people, therefore, a representative group of 2,000 13-24 year olds were also surveyed as part of the C19PRC Study. It is important to understand how young people are dealing with this crisis - especially the potential differences in the impact of the pandemic on psychological well-being at different developmental times during the adolescent period. Consequently, this study will provide essential information about the psychological impact of the virus on a sample of early to late adolescents, as well as their family relationships and compliance with government restrictions. These findings could potentially inform future government policy targeted specifically in helping this population.

International surveys

After the initial launch of the C19PRC Study in the UK, a network of international collaborators launched C19PRC studies internationally:

  • Republic of Ireland - Launched March 2020, conducted their Wave 5 survey in March 2021
  • Spain - Launched April 2020, conducted their Wave 4 survey in April 2021
  • Italy - Launched July 2020, conducted their Wave 2 survey in April 2021
  • Saudi Arabia - Launched May 2020
  • United Arab Emirates - Launched April 2020

These international surveys were modelled on the design of the UK study, allowing psychological, social and economic outcomes to be assess within and across countries.

Find out more about out international collaborators