Research Insights About Covid-19

We attempt to provide selected highlights in recent research findings

Last Update on 1 February 2021

December 2020

January 28, 2021 (Personality and Individual Differences)

Public attention about COVID-19 on social media: An investigation based on data mining and text analysis

Keke Hou, Tingting Hou & Lili Cai.

This article examines social media responses to the pandemic and its management in China. A careful analysis provides a few surprising insights. A more careful approach to editing the paper would have improved its accessibility. Whether the findings are translatable to other countries’ experience is for the reader to determine.

January 23, 2021 (Government Information Quarterly)

Does government social media promote users' information security behavior towards COVID-19 scams? Cultivation effects and protective motivations

Zhenya Tang, Andrew S. Miller, Zhongyun Zhou et al.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak and offering COVID-19-related ‘scams’ or fraudulent deals to unsuspecting people. This study highlights the importance of government social media for information security management during crises.

January 21, 2021 (Nature Human Behavior)

Increase in suicide following an initial decline during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan

Takanao Tanaka & Shohei Okamoto.

This paper considers whether the pandemic has harmed psychological health and exacerbated suicide risk. Based on month-level records of suicides covering the entire Japanese population in 1,848 administrative units, it was found that monthly suicide rates declined by 14% during the first 5 months of the pandemic (February to June 2020). By contrast, monthly suicide rates increased by 16% during the second wave (July to October 2020), with a larger increase among females (37%) and children and adolescents (49%). The authors point to several complex reasons, including the government’s generous subsidies, reduced working hours and school closures during the first wave. Effective suicide prevention—particularly among vulnerable populations—should be an important public health consideration in responding to the pandemic.

January 21, 2021 (Structural Change and Economic Dynamics)

Predicting the spread of COVID-19 in Italy using machine learning: Do socio-economic factors matter?

Francesco Bloise & Massimiliano Tancioni.

The paper investigates the provincial/ geographic variability of COVID-19 cases registered in Italy. The authors apply machine learning to isolate, among 77 potential predictors, those that minimize the out-of-sample prediction error. The results initially highlight the dominance of factors related to the intensity and interactions of economic activities whereas in a second analysis the relevance of these variables is highly reduced, suggesting mitigation of the pandemic following the lockdown of the economy.

In considering cases at the onset of the “second wave”, the authors confirm that the geographic distribution of the epidemic is indeed associated with economic factors.

January 20, 2021 (Journal of Psychiatric Research)

Workplace violence and its association with quality of life among mental health professionals in China during the COVID-19 pandemic

Xiao-Meng Xie, Yan-Jie Zhao, Feng-Rong An et al.

This study found that workplace violence was common among mental health professionals in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly the authors conclude that “appropriate measures” to prevent workplace violence should be developed.



January 16, 2021 (International Review of Financial Analysis)

Economic resiliency and recovery, lessons from the financial crisis for the COVID-19 pandemic: A regional perspective from central and Eastern Europe

Josef C. Brada, Pawel Gajewski & Ali M. Kutan.

In this paper, the authors simulate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of upper-middle-income countries to recover from a shock to employment caused by the incidence of COVID-19. Using recoverability equation estimates, they find that employment in no more than 31 of the 199 regions will have fully recovered in 2 years following the onset of recovery from the crisis. The implications of the findings for policy are discussed.

January 12, 2021 (Social Sciences & Humanities Open)

How England first managed a national infection crisis: Implementation of the Plague Orders of 1578 compared with COVID-19 Lockdown March to May 2020

Graeme Tobyn

This paper draws comparisons between the current COVID-19 pandemic and the first-ever national management of epidemic infection in England - the Plague Orders of 1578. The author notes that then as now, limits on freedom of movement and congregation, social distancing and quarantine measures were applied for the sake of preserving life, loss of livelihood was ameliorated by government loans and inconvenient opinions suppressed. The increased danger in certain necessary occupations and flight to second homes by the rich have also been observed, with health inequities uncovered and restrictions on being with the dying and burying the dead enforced. The paper does not directly address how technology was and is applied to respond to the pandemic then and now but provides the memorable conclusion: “In a wider biopsychosocial (sic) sense, epidemic disease is not a leveller of society and we are not all in the same boat with coronavirus”.  Indeed.



January 9, 2021 (Journal of Urban Economics)

The geographic spread of COVID-19 correlates with the structure of social networks as measured by Facebook

Theresa Kuchler, Dominic Russel & Johannes Stroebel.

This US study used aggregated data from Facebook to show that COVID-19 is more likely to spread between regions with stronger social network connections. Areas with more social ties to two early COVID-19 “hotspots” (Westchester County, NY, in the U.S. and Lodi province in Italy) generally had more confirmed COVID-19 cases by the end of March. These relationships hold after controlling for geographic distance to the hotspots as well as the population density and demographics of the regions. As the pandemic progressed in the U.S., a county’s social proximity to recent COVID-19 cases and deaths predicts future outbreaks over and above physical proximity and demographics. In part due to its broad coverage, social connectedness data provides additional predictive power to measures based on smartphone location or online search data. The authors suggest that these findings indicate that data from online social networks can be useful to epidemiologists and others hoping to forecast the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19.

January 6, 2021 (Humanities and Social Sciences Communications)

Responding to the pandemic as a family unit: social impacts of COVID-19 on rural migrants in China and their coping strategies

Shuangshuang Tang & Xin Li

There has been limited research on the social impacts of epidemics on uninfected people in developing countries. This study investigates the social impacts of the spread of COVID-19 on rural migrants and their coping strategies through face-to-face interviews with rural migrants in Nanjing, China. The study finds that rural migrants suffered from serious social impacts due to COVID-19, especially during the associated lockdown period. Since they received little support from governments and employers, rural migrants adopted household strategies to deal with difficulties. They helped one another within a household as a unit to maximize resources and reduce risks. Traditional family values were helpful during the period.

January 4, 2021 (Social Science & Medicine)

Can a COVID-19 vaccine live up to Americans’ expectations? A conjoint analysis of how vaccine characteristics influence vaccination intentions

Matt Motta

This US study considers how properties of vaccines themselves (e.g., national origin, efficacy, risk of side effects) might influence vaccination intentions. This information can help public health officials preempt differential intentions to vaccinate, and inform health communication campaigns that encourage vaccine uptake. Unsurprisingly US respondents prefer vaccines that are US-made, over 90% effective, and carry a less than 1% risk of minor side effects. This is potentially problematic, as some leading vaccine candidates are produced outside the US, and/or may be more likely to produce minor side effects than respondents would otherwise prefer. Worryingly, intended vaccine refusal rates exceed 30% for a vaccine meeting these optimal characteristics.

January 1, 2021 (Social Sciences & Humanities Open)

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Focusing Event to Promote Community Midwifery Policies in the United States

Adelle Dora Monteblanco

The pandemic stress has changed prenatal, labour, delivery, and postpartum care in the U.S., motivating many pregnant people to seek maternal health care with community midwives. This work theorizes that the COVID-19-related disrupted health care system and the increased visibility of community midwives may create a “focusing event,” which may enable midwives and their advocates to impact on policy.

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C. Social Sciences, Humanities and Public Policy