Stress and worry are a part of normal life, but they have reached new levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Wenyao Xu is part of a team of UB researchers who are looking at ways to reduce that anxiety and improve mental health in the City of Buffalo’s low-income neighborhoods.
When the body is overloaded with stress and anxiety, it manifests physiologically and leads to other health issues. COVID-19 has exacerbated these effects and by intervening with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) technologies, researchers will measure the impacts and improvement in overall and mental health in low-income and racial- and ethnic-minority neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo.
Researchers will compare the effectiveness of a teleconference MBSR versus an MBSR mobile app in reducing worry and improving other mental health outcomes including anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, isolation, sleep, mindfulness, and quality of life. Wenyao Xu, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will lead the technical team in development of an app.
This study addresses an important question of finding ways to effectively address mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic when both patients and the healthcare system have been challenged by shelter-in place orders and social-distancing restrictions. COVID-19 has created an urgency to expand the use of technology in routine behavioral healthcare.
The $2.5 million award, entitled “Comparing Two Ways to Mitigate the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health among Adults from Underserved and Racial Minority Communities,” is funded by the independent and non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
“We teamed up with the research team in the UB Nursing School to develop new mHealth tools for health care delivery and patient-provider communication. New technologies can monitor user's stress levels and provide highly accessible intervention services to promote mental health among under-served populations.”