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Publication Detail
How Did People Cope During the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Structural Topic Modelling Analysis of Free-Text Data From 11,000 United Kingdom Adults
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Wright L, Fluharty M, Steptoe A, Fancourt D
  • Publisher:
    Frontiers Media SA
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Frontiers in Psychology
  • Volume:
  • Article number:
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  • Keywords:
    COVID-19, coping (C), free-text analysis, mental health, structural topic modeling, text mining
  • Notes:
    © 2022 Wright, Fluharty, Steptoe and Fancourt. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial impacts on lives across the globe. Job losses have been widespread, and individuals have experienced significant restrictions on their usual activities, including extended isolation from family and friends. While studies suggest population mental health worsened from before the pandemic, not all individuals appear to have experienced poorer mental health. This raises the question of how people managed to cope during the pandemic. Methods: To understand the coping strategies individuals employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, we used structural topic modelling, a text mining technique, to extract themes from free-text data on coping from over 11,000 UK adults, collected between 14 October and 26 November 2020. Results: We identified 16 topics. The most discussed coping strategy was 'thinking positively' and involved themes of gratefulness and positivity. Other strategies included engaging in activities and hobbies (such as doing DIY, exercising, walking and spending time in nature), keeping routines, and focusing on one day at a time. Some participants reported more avoidant coping strategies, such as drinking alcohol and binge eating. Coping strategies varied by respondent characteristics including age, personality traits and sociodemographic characteristics and some coping strategies, such as engaging in creative activities, were associated with more positive lockdown experiences. Conclusion: A variety of coping strategies were employed by individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coping strategy an individual adopted was related to their overall lockdown experiences. This may be useful for helping individuals prepare for future lockdowns or other events resulting in self-isolation.
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