Covid 19 and its implication on social activity, loneliness and stigma

Linda Valeri, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Outbreaks induce social anxiety and social isolation that profoundly shake the life of the affected communities. Furthermore, quarantine may induce loneliness and perceived stigma, which may have long-lasting consequences for individuals well beyond the timespan of the outbreak. There is a lack of empirical research on these phenomena being experienced by individuals either diagnosed with COVID-19, living in high risk COVID-19 areas or whose country of origin experiences high risk of COVID-19. Moreover, there is lack of empirical evidence on effective interventions aiming to prevent fear, loneliness, and stigma during a virus outbreak such as the COVID-19 that we are experiencing. Digital social contact is a form of interpersonal contact with members of the affected group and a potentially effective intervention for reduction of social anxiety, loneliness and stigma-related knowledge and attitudes. Having access to information about the outbreak from high quality sources and sustained connection and support of friends and family has the potential to reduce these contagion-related phenomena. We designed an intervention aimed at providing appropriate information about the outbreak, to encourage mobile-mediated contact with close friends and families during time of quarantine, and to sensitize the participants to the outbreak related stigma. We have enrolled on a voluntary basis 1200 participants, age 18-70, using Amazon Mechanical Turk ( The informational intervention is implemented via a vignette, the interventions aimed at preventing stigma and loneliness are implemented using 90 second video we have developed posted on YouTube. Web-based self-report questionnaires have been conducted to compare the interventions and control group and to monitor attitude towards social activities and perception of loneliness and anxiety during the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the US general population.