As lockdown measures tighten around the world, young people and their parents are increasingly feeling the strain of social isolation induced by COVID-19. With physical distancing and uncertainty about the future becoming the new norm, more adolescents are reporting high levels of anxiety and worry that place their mental health at risk.
In a bid to address these increasing stressors, the Oxford ARC Study aims to investigate the key factors that both help and hinder resilient functioning in adolescents during COVID-19. Identifying these protective ‘resilience’ factors will allow researchers and policy makers to provide targeted approaches to better support particularly vulnerable adolescents throughout this difficult period and similar periods of immense stress.
The study materials were reviewed by four members of the Youth Advisory Group from the Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Mental Health Network. The panel members echoed the importance of this research with Elina Thomas Jones from the advisory group commenting, “The uncertainty of the future and the sudden changes lead to confusion and rising levels of anxiety—both of which increase vulnerability towards poor psychological wellbeing in adolescence.”
Professor Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology & Affective Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, notes, “Understanding how social isolation and the pandemic is affecting young people’s mental health is crucial. This study will help us to better understand how to safeguard mental health and how to promote resilience in young people and their parents or carers, should similar situations arise in the future.”
The study will evaluate a number of mental health issues including anxiety, depression and eating-related problems in relation to mental flexibility and resilience. Data collection will be ongoing to track the status of participant mental health in response to the changing pandemic landscape.
The study is being conducted by Professor Elaine Fox, Dr Sam Parsons, Dr Ana Todorovic, Dr Annabel Songco and Ms Michele Lim at Oxford University in collaboration with Dr Susanne Schweizer (University of Cambridge and University of New South Wales), Dr Amy Orben (University of Cambridge) and the TRIUMPH Mental Health Network led by Professor Joanna Inchley and her team at the University of Glasgow,
The ARC study is international and open to adolescents (aged 13 to 18) and/or their parents/carers. Participants will complete weekly (then monthly) surveys and an optional computer task. The initial 20-minute survey and shorter follow-up surveys will ask respondents about family life, relationships and psychological symptoms, to evaluate each individual’s coping status over time.
Every month, a £25 Amazon voucher will be gifted to 40 randomly selected participants who complete the survey, and 40 more who complete the optional computer-based task. For more information and to take part, please visit: https://oxfordarcstudy.com/.
Follow the study team on social media at https://twitter.com/oceanoxford
This research is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.