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The well-being of Icelanders during the COVID-19 pandemic

Scientists at the University of Iceland, in collaboration with the Directorate of Health and the Chief Epidemiologist, have initiated a study called the COVID-19 National Resilience Cohort.

The aim of the study is to gather as much data as possible on the impact of the pandemic on the health and well-being of people in Iceland, in order to inform future responses to the impact of a societal shock such as a pandemic. All individuals aged 18 and over who have electronic ID are invited to take part in the study at The University of Iceland is a member of the Aurora University Network. The study is sponsored by a presidential couple of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Eliza Reid.

It is safe to say that COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges to ever face nations across the world, having a major impact on economies and public health. Iceland has not escaped these hardships rather than other countries in the world. Scientists, therefore, believe it is important to get as clear a picture as possible of the effects of the pandemic on the Icelandic nation.

They plan to investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on stress-related symptoms, psychological health and lifestyles among people in Iceland, but also to explore whether a history of a disease or other risk factors or potential or confirmed COVID-19 infection, are linked to poorer well-being and lower quality of life. It is important to map which factors have supported good health and well-being in individuals and families during these uncertain times. The research team also hopes to shed light on whether strong stress responses during the COVID-19 pandemic have a wider impact on long-term health. All this knowledge will be important to the authorities and can be used to better organise healthcare services and civil protection during times of societal shock such as the COVID-19 pandemic. An experienced team of scientists are involved in the study, led by Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir, professor at the University of Iceland Faculty of Medicine.

The study is part of an international research project in this field and is, as previously stated, open to all individuals aged 18 and over with electronic ID.

“Icelanders generally have a positive attitude toward taking part in research and the nation has probably never been more aware of the importance of science than just now. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused societal shock across the world, but we Icelanders have a unique opportunity to better understand the factors that are beneficial and detrimental in these unusual circumstances,” says Unnur.

“We can tell there are higher levels of stress in the population. The number of people contacting the health clinics has gone up, for example, due to anxiety and fear of infection, but there has also been an increase in people calling the Red Cross helpline due to loneliness. There is a danger, too, that alcohol consumption will rise and according to the police, there are indications that domestic violence is increasing as well. It is likely that the effects of the pandemic on society could be protracted. It is thus very important to explore what these effects are and research these things carefully so that we can respond correctly,” says Alma D. Möller, the Director of Health.

The research has already been approved by the National Bioethics Committee and the Data Protection Authority and has received a grant from the government of ISK 1.5 million.

On the photo, Arna Hauksdottir and Unnur Anna Valdimarsdottir, both professors at the University of Iceland are playing a leading role in the new research. Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson.

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