NIH/NIAAA Grant Funds Research on Social Isolation and Alcohol Use During and Post-COVID

Associate Research Professor Hsiu-Ju Lin, Ph.D., has joined an interdisciplinary team awarded a $1.5M RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH/NIAAA) to investigate the relationship between social isolation, loneliness, stress, and coping mechanisms with alcohol use across the United States.

There are two parts to the study. In the first phase, the research team will carry out a series of sophisticated analyses using a nationwide survey of over 1,500 participants during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the link between coping mechanisms and alcohol consumption. An innovative aspect of this phase involved utilizing geo-coding and participants' geographic locations to assess place-based sources of stress. It aimed to explore how these factors are associated with social isolation and loneliness and to understand the impact of these inter-relationships on drinking, Lin explains. The GIS analysis is overseen by Associate Professor Debarchana Ghosh from the Department of Geography at UConn.

In the second part of the study, the researchers will collect prospective data to validate their isolation, loneliness, and coping strategy conceptual model and compare pandemic and post-pandemic periods.

“The main goal is to understand how social isolation and loneliness during COVID impact alcohol consumption,” she says. “We want to understand the mechanism and impact of that unique stress.”

Lin, the co-investigator, is collaborating with PIs Michael Fendrich, Crystal Park, Beth Russell, as well as co-Investigator Ghosh. Fendrich, formerly the associate dean for research at the UConn SSW, is a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Park is a professor of Psychological Sciences; Russell is an associate professor in the Human Development and Family Sciences department.

Read more about Lin’s work.