HMC and QU Asking the Public to Take Part in Online Long-Term Mental Health Study
Doha, 15 September 2020: Last month Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Qatar University (QU) launched a joint research study designed to investigate the social and psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Qatar’s population. The study, which has been funded by Qatar University’s Emergency Response Research Grant, is being administered online in English and Arabic and is open to all residents 18 years of age or older, will help Qatar policymakers and health service providers to develop public education and psychological health services, now and in the future.
Dr. Majid Al Abdulla, Chair of Psychiatry at HMC, said the study aims to help researchers better understand why some people are more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and depression during traumatic situations, such as an infectious disease outbreak. He says researchers will also examine why the impact of psychological distress lasts longer in some people.
“Besides being a public physical health emergency, there is growing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a mental health emergency. There is currently very little empirical evidence about how the current pandemic has affected our mental health and well-being so this study is significant because it will help us to better understand the psychological impact on the population here in Qatar,” said Dr. Al Abdulla, who is a principal investigator on the study.
Dr. Salma Khaled, Assistant Professor at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at QU, says the study is also significant because it is a longitudinal investigation, which means researchers will follow the same group of individuals over an extended period. Dr. Khaled added that by examining key changes in participants over a 12-month period, researchers would be able to better understand the potential long-term impacts on mental health.
“The study involves a repeated examination of the same individuals over one year. Those who register for the survey will complete an initial baseline online questionnaire and will then be invited to complete follow-up questionnaires at months 3, 6, 9, and 12. All information collected will be kept confidential and no personal identifying details will be published. Participation is voluntary and participants can opt-out of the study at any point. Completing the first questionnaire does not commit you to complete follow-up questionnaires,” said Dr. Khaled.
“A random sample of the population will receive an sms message inviting them to take part in the study, but this study is also open to any member of the public who is a resident, is 18 years of age or older, and reads English or Arabic. Those interested in participating in the study can visit www.q-lamp.com
for more information” added Dr. Khaled.
Participants will be recruited through social media and as associated online advertising campaign. Dr. Khaled says the study’s success will be dependent on the public’s participation.
“The only way for the study to be successful is through participation of the public in the research. We currently have no data about the mental health impact of the pandemic on the community. It will only take few minutes of your time to complete the survey, but it is a worthwhile investment in the health of the entire community,” said Dr. Khaled.
Mr. Iain Tulley, Qatar National Health Strategy 2018-2022 lead for Mental Health and Well-being and CEO of HMC's Mental Health Service says this study is so important because research conducted to date has been small-scale and fragmented.
“We know that the pandemic is having a major social and psychological impact on the whole world and we also know that some members of the population are more at risk for anxiety and depression, for example. This study will measure the mental health of Qatar’s population by examining several factors ranging from difficulties with sleep, concentration, and decision making. It will help us gain insight into how individuals are responding to the stressors of isolation and quarantine, employment insecurity, and the virus' threat to their health,” said Mr. Tulley.
“It will allow us to see how peoples’ experiences change during the pandemic and the findings will help us better understand the current and possible future impact of the coronavirus crisis on our mental and general well-being. The results of this study will impact how we understand and treat psychological distress related to the pandemic,” added Mr. Tulley.