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Associations between COVID-19 Symptoms & Stressful Life Experiences

Associations between COVID-19 Symptoms & Stressful Life Experiences

Principal Investigator: Dr Jamie Hanson
Approved Research ID: 92699
Approval date: September 16th 2022

Lay summary

This project will examine the relationship between stress, stressful life experiences, and COVID-19. Stress is a risk factor for many illnesses, including infectious diseases such as viruses. Stress can increase both the likelihood of developing an illness and the severity of symptoms. Preliminary research suggests that childhood trauma, a stressful life experience, increases the likelihood of developing "long COVID", a COVID infection with symptoms lasting 3+ months. In our research, we will determine if stress and stressful life experiences are significant risk factors for severe COVID illness.

To conduct our research, we will look at patients with positive COVID-19 diagnoses and examine medical records to determine symptoms. We will look at a variety of metrics related to mental health, including current stress levels and recent stressful experiences, as well as stressful experiences that happened in childhood. We will also consider medical diagnoses, such as diabetes, and sociodemographic factors, such as age, as potential confounding variables. We will use multiple measurements to determine severity of COVID illness: severity of symptoms, total number of symptoms, and duration of symptoms. Using this data, we will investigate if more severe illness correlates with stress and stressful life experiences.

As the data is already collected, we aim to complete our analyses within the span of approximately 18 months. Regardless of our findings, this study will have a positive impact on public health. If we determine that stress and stressful life experiences are risk factors for severe illness, this will help treatment and prevention at multiple levels. Individuals will be able to more accurately assess their own risk and make informed decisions regarding their health and safety. Doctors will be able to better predict if their patients will develop severe illness, and create treatment plans accordingly. Public health institutions will be able to target at-risk populations for testing and prevention efforts. If we determine that stress and stressful life experiences are not risk factors for severe illness, future researchers can focus on investigating other potential risk factors.