TWU professor studies pandemic mental health, discovers predictors of emotional resilience

Dr. Bill Strom examines lifestyle factors that contribute to resilience in a COVID-19 environment. Survey results gathered from over 800 participants during April to May 2020 indicate that lower hours of media use per week lead to higher reports of “weathering well” and that covenantal relationship values help people to “cope better.”


Dr. Strom, Chair and Professor of Media + Communication at Trinity Western University, is a social scientist who studies communication in close relationships. This spring, he tested whether the assumptions we hold about personal relationships make a difference in our ability to weather pandemic isolation.

His fast-tracked study on “weathering well” tested individual differences, isolation experiences, and coping methods as predictors of resilience during COVID-19 lockdown.

To pursue his study, Dr. Strom custom designed a four-item pandemic-specific scale for “weathering” the storm of forced isolation.  

Little pandemic-related research was accessible when Dr. Strom first began his study, so Dr. Strom sought to investigate a wide variety of factors.

Individual differences that were considered include age, sex, education, geography, personality, and approach to relationships.

Experiential factors that were assessed include length of lockdown, number of housemates, work dynamics, receiving government assistance or not, perceived risk, personal illness, family or friend illness, and death of family or friend.

Coping strategies that Dr. Strom evaluated included the degree people engaged exercise, media use, religious service attendance, quality and quantity of diet, and alcohol consumption.

Dr. Strom was open to discovering new findings. “While resilience research to date provides likely outcomes, we took the approach that all bets are off when comparing past research under life-as-normal conditions versus COVID-19 lockdown,” he says.


Key findings of study on resilience during COVID-19 lockdown​

Dr. Strom’s research found that individuals who reported higher levels of walking or exercising each week, attending online religious services, and eating better during the pandemic compared to before it also reported higher levels of resilience.

He also noticed that people who reported lower hours of media use per week indicated higher reports of “weathering well”. 

Notably, media use correlated negatively with resilience. Dr. Strom reports, “Results indicated that high media consumption related negatively to all indicators of relational health, and positively with all indicators of relational struggle.”

The study also found that holding a more “covenantal” view of close relationships related positively with signs of resilience, and negatively with signs of struggle.

“Covenantal values, such as being concerned for others and belonging to a local church, appear to have helped people generally cope better, trust more, feel supported more, and rate life as satisfactory.  At the same time, these people reported being less aggressive, less anxious, less fearful, and less lonely, than people who rated high on contract and low on covenant,” Dr. Strom reports.

Listen to Dr. Strom's interview on Faith Today Magazine

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About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to find and fulfill their purpose in life. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vibrant faith community devoted to supporting vibrant leaders seeking to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

For media inquiries, please contact: media@twu.ca

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