August 22, 2022
By Haley Dittbrenner ’25
“Over the summer, we have gained more confidence in our overall hypothesis that strong identification with our local communities is an important factor in helping people cope with stressful events,” Bucher, of Selinsgrove, said of her research. “Americans who strongly identified with their communities were less stressed throughout the first year of the pandemic.”
The experiment first began in April 2020, when Nick D. Ungson, assistant professor of psychology at Susquehanna University, and collaborators from Lehigh University began conducting surveys on community well-being and personal stress. The survey featured over 2,000 respondents, all of them American adults. These studies continued until March 2021.
Their research suggests that community support is a crucial factor in helping people cope with traumatic events. Americans who strongly identified with their communities reported lower levels of stress throughout the first year of the pandemic. This effect persisted even when additional variables were considered, such as age, political alignment, financial situation and whether the person contracted Covid-19.
This summer, the project shifted toward preparing for publication. Bucher’s daily tasks included conducting literature searches, analyzing data, organizing data codebooks, preparing a manuscript for publication and creating a research poster for the Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research symposium. Bucher presented her findings at the symposium in July.
Ungson contextualized the importance of their research based on the implications it holds for psychological health within society. Social connectedness is imperative to maintaining a healthy psychological state, he said, which has proven difficult in the era of social distancing and Zoom meetings.
“The pandemic changed our lives forever, so we think it is important to examine not just how Americans coped and demonstrated resilience throughout this catastrophic event, but also investigate what factors contributed to that resilience,” Ungson said.