COVID-19 has illuminated the importance of social connections, but it's also placed a strain on some relationships, which can in turn impact mental health.
University of Arizona psychologists are launching a new study to better understand how difficulties in romantic relationships affect mental health and well-being.
"The basic idea of this study is simple," Sbarra said. "Our romantic relationships can bring us tremendous joy and happiness, but when these relationships are strained, the risk for emotional pain and suffering increases enormously. We didn't plan this to be a COVID-related study, but after a year in lockdown, loneliness and disconnection are very relevant – now more than ever, I'd say."With support from a $2.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, UArizona psychology professors Jessica Andrews-Hanna and David Sbarra will conduct a neuroimaging study of 200 romantic couples, looking at how both members of a couple process social information, and the ways in which these neural responses may affect risk for depression.
The researchers are specifically interested in studying the processes that may explain exactly why and how relationship difficulties have such a profoundly negative impact on mental health.
"We study the multiple ways in which relationship struggles may impact our well-being," Andrews-Hanna said. "We use MRI to study activations in brain regions associated with emotions and empathy when people are thinking about their partner. We also study how couples communicate on a daily basis by using two smartphone apps that our team developed, and when our participants come to the lab, we also ask them to engage in a support task because we know social support is a key factor in well-being and mental health."
Read the full article from UANews here