Dr Joanne Ingram, University of West of Scotland
RSE Scotland Asia Partnerships Higher Education (SAPHIRE) Research Fund awardee 2021
In January 2021, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Scotland went into a second, strict national lockdown. Japan, however, adopted a less enforced policy, and schools there remained open. This contrast in approaches, provided Dr Joanne Ingram, RSE SAPHIRE Research Fund awardee, with the opportunity to work with researchers in both Scotland and Japan to examine the outcomes of these different restrictions on health behaviours (such as drinking, eating, sleeping and exercise), mental wellbeing, and cognitive processes (such as attention span, memory, and learning).
Comparing both countries, Dr Ingram’s research found that stricter restrictions in Scotland, led to over half of adults reporting to have adopted unhealthy behaviours – such as drinking more – whereas, in Japan, respondents reported that their behaviour had stayed roughly the same. A link was also found in Scotland, between poorer health behaviours and poorer mental wellbeing.
Whilst restrictions in Scotland were deployed to protect our unique population from the spread of the virus, research like Dr Ingram’s means that we now have a better understanding of the negative consequences of these policies. Dr Ingram said, “If we find ourselves in a similar situation again, we can use these findings to develop strategies to help people avoid making poorer health choices when restricted, and help them maintain cognitive health and flexibility. Now that we are moving to the next phase of the pandemic, we also need to think about how to help people who still need to improve their physical, mental and cognitive health.”
This award allowed me to build a research team in both countries and quickly engage with people in Scotland and Japan whilst they were still under restrictions. Without the award we would not have been able to assess people in both countries, so as an international collaborative project, it wouldn’t have been possible.”Dr Joanne Ingram
Dr Ingram’s following projects will consider the longer-term effects of Covid-19 on people’s cognitive abilities. Specifically, she hopes to look at how long-Covid affects our ability to concentrate on and remember information. Some estimates suggest that over 100,000 people in Scotland are living with long-Covid, but very little is known about its effects or the potential for recovery. Dr Ingram plans to collaborate with other researchers working in cognitive ability, chronic illness, and physical health to help people suffering from long-Covid and other chronic illnesses; potentially developing strategies for improvement and raising awareness of these debilitating diseases.