Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 on Health Behaviors and Mental Health in a NYC-focused Cohort

Presenter: Alexandra Mellis, PhD
Co-authors: Candace M. Raio, PhD & Paul Glimcher, PhD
Affiliation: Neuroscience Institute, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and pervasive stressor that has altered every aspect of society. Understanding the psychological and behavioral effects of stress, social distancing, financial hardship and COVID-related health challenges will be critical for informing appropriate mental health interventions and social policies during the recovery period. To comprehensively assess these effects, we are currently conducting a large-scale, mobile app-based, longitudinal study to track how social distancing and COVID-related stress affects psychological health and economic decision-making. Each day, participants spend 5-10 minutes completing gamified tasks and survey instruments on their smartphones, which allows us to track dynamic changes in the emotional and decision state of participants as they navigate the challenges imposed by the pandemic. In today’s talk, I will present preliminary data from this study, outlining initial trajectories of subjective stress responses, adherence to social distancing policies and self-reported mental health. Further, I’ll present our initial findings regarding how these self-reported states relate to decision-making variables, including measures of delay discounting (impulsivity), known to predict a wide range of psychological and health behaviors.