Research grant supports study on effects of watching Russia-Ukraine war

For college and university students, disorders involving depression, anxiety and stress are on the rise

York University Professor Esther Greenglass was awarded a minor research grant from the Faculty of Health on June 8, to study the effects of watching the Russia-Ukraine war.

Esther Greenglass
Esther Greenglass

Minor research grants awarded by the Faculty of Health are available to assist full-time faculty in conducting research projects that do not require or are not eligible for major resources.

Greenglass will study psychological distress related to watching the war and feeling threatened by COVID-19. On Feb. 24, Russia launched an unprovoked attack against Ukraine that is ongoing. As a result, thousands have been injured and killed, and many historical monuments as well as hospitals, schools, and homes have been destroyed.

In response to the war, millions have become refugees and have fled to neighbouring countries such as Poland, Romania and Hungary. The attack has sparked outrage in countries around the world, with TV and social media reporting on the events, allowing people access to news about the war 24 hours a day.

Greenglass says though Canadians may feel relatively safe from the war, many may still be affected economically due to sanctions abroad that influence the price of commodities such as oil and gas. Further, since the war began during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that stress and anxiety due to COVID-19 together with distress from watching the war could result in even greater levels of anxiety, sadness, anger or depression for some.

“The purpose of this research is to systematically study psychological distress related to watching the war and feeling threatened by COVID-19,” says Greenglass. “The relationship between stress, coping and psychological distress will be examined to identify factors associated with lessening distress and leading to better mental health outcomes.”

Participants of the study are York University students from the Undergraduate Research Participant Pool (URPP) who will fill out an anonymous online questionnaire with the measures employed in the study. Greenglass will gather data using the same questionnaire from other national samples to increase the robustness and generalizability of the findings.

“Results may also have implications for interventions that could reduce distress in the future in the face of societal upheavals,” says Greenglass.

According to stress and coping theory, Greenglass says social support and certain forms of coping can help alleviate anxiety during stressful times.