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How are consumers coping with COVID-19-related stress?

Researchers found that coping skills vary among age groups

Photo (c) CentralITAlliance - Getty Images
Whether experienced by parents, students, or employees, stress affects every age group in different ways. Since the start of COVID-19, those stress levels have only escalated. 

Now, researchers from the University of Connecticut are exploring how the pandemic has affected consumers’ stress levels and what they’re doing to cope with these new stressors. 

“Almost overnight, the rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and subsequent state and federal prevention measures dramatically altered daily behavior,” said researcher Crystal Park. “This unique, early study and our planned future work will let us see how Americans navigate all of these changes, and how their response to this stress evolves over time.” 

Identifying stressors and coping skills

To understand the stress levels affecting consumers during COVID-19, the researchers had over 1,000 participants complete surveys about factors that could be influencing their stress levels, as well as what they were doing to reduce their stress and stay safe and healthy. 

All but three percent of the survey respondents reported that reading or watching COVID-related content increased their stress levels, while changes to the regular daily routine was stress-inducing for nearly 90 percent of participants. 

Similarly, financial fears and concerns around job security and unemployment topped the list of the participants’ greatest stressors. 

Dealing with stress

When it came time to dealing with that stress, the researchers learned that different consumers took different approaches. 

While behaviors like substance abuse were more common among younger consumers, the researchers found that many participants were doing their best to stay engaged socially and find ways to stay distracted during these difficult times. 

Because these are uncharted waters for everyone, the researchers encourage consumers to pick up hobbies and habits that best suit their needs, regardless of how untraditional they may seem in the moment. 

“Distraction or avoidance is usually considered to be an unproductive coping strategy for most challenging situations and can lead to negative outcomes,” said researcher Beth Russell. “But in this instance where people don’t have much control over making the disease itself better, we can do small things to help ourselves and others -- seek connections through telemediated emotional support, for example -- and find ways to let the time pass. We’ll see in the long run how those strategies help people’s mental health.” 

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