- Rituals & wellbeing
- Health behaviours during COVID-19 pandemic
- Psychological impact during COVID-19 pandemic
Rituals & wellbeing
While religious rituals might have gotten a bad rap – as habitual, repetitive, allegedly meaningless behaviours -, more recent research suggests that rituals can in various ways contribute to psychological wellbeing, such as through emotion regulation (e.g., the reduction of anxiety), meaning making, and social bonding. In our research, we found that participating in religious rituals and secular equivalents was associated with an increase in social bonding, which itself was predicted by the experience of positive affect during the ritual (Charles, van Mulukom, et al., 2020; 2021). Relatedly, we found that connectedness to one’s congregation and the belief that one shares moral values with others in this congregation was associated with higher quality of life scores (Brown et al., 2021).
- Brown, J., van Mulukom, V., Charles, S.J., & Farias, M. (2021) Do you need religion to enjoy the benefits of Church services? Social bonding, morality and quality of life among religious and secular congregations. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. DOI
- Charles, S. J., van Mulukom, V., Brown, J. E., Watts, F., Dunbar, R. I. M., Farias, M. (2021) United on Sunday: The effects of secular rituals on social bonding and affect. PLOS One 16(1): e0242546. DOI
- Charles, S. J., van Mulukom, V., Farias, M., Brown, J. E., Delmonte, R., Maraldi, E., Turner, L., Watts, F., Watts, J., Dunbar, R. I. M. (preprint) Religious Rituals Increase Social Bonding and Pain Threshold. PsyArXiv. DOI
Health behaviours during COVID-19 pandemic
Health behaviours, such as masking and maintaining social distance, are of crucial importance in protecting oneself and others around us during the COVID-19 pandemic. What predicts whether people engage in protective health behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In my research, I identify four types of behaviours, including hygiene behaviours, distancing, mask wearing, and misguided/self-centred behaviours. Focusing on the effects of trust and information, I found that hygiene and distancing behaviours were predicted by having scientific knowledge of COVID-19 which itself was predicted by trust in scientists and trust in non-populist governments, whereas misguided/self-centred behaviours (e.g., hoarding and avoiding Asian individuals) was predicted by conspiracy belief, which was itself predicted by distrust in scientists and non-populist governments, but trust in populist governments.
In collaborative research focusing on social bonding, we found that while only bonding with one’s family was associated with self-reported engagement in health behaviours, being strongly bonded with one’s close circles as well as more extended groups predicted better wellbeing (including less anxiety and depression), particularly for individuals who feel bonded with a greater number of groups. These findings suggest that close and extended social bonds offer sources of support and direction during challenging circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Tuncgenc, B., van Mulukom, V., and Newson, M. (2023) Social bonds are related to health behaviours and positive wellbeing globally. Science Advances. DOI
- van Mulukom, V. (preprint) Trust in scientists and non-populist governments supports COVID-19 information and safeguarding behaviors. PsyArXiv. DOI
Psychological impact during COVID-19 pandemic
Together with Dr Miguel Farias, I led a large international survey on the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. We recruited 8,229 participants from 79 countries worldwide (in March-April 2020), and found that levels of anxiety and depression were elevated in many countries, in particular the UK, USA, and Brazil. Reduced psychological well-being was associated with a lower sense of control and increased social isolation. However, engaging in adaptive coping, communicating frequently with close ones, and governmental actions which demonstrate support in a public health crisis mitigated some of the ill effects of prolonged lockdown. We conclude that citizens and governments can work together to adapt better to restrictive but necessary measures during the current and future pandemics, and are now working on longitudinal follow-ups.
- Coventry University press release
- van Mulukom, V., Muzzulini, B., Rutjens, B. T., van Lissa, C.J., and Farias, M. (2021). The Psychological Impact of Threat and Lockdowns During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exacerbating Factors and Mitigating Actions. Translational Behavioral Medicine 11(7): 1318–1329. DOI