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Using Online Connections to Alleviate the Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19




14: Economics

Faculty Supervisor:

Frank Schilbach

Faculty email:


Apply by:

May 5, 2020


Jenna Anders; janders@g.harvard.edu

Project Description

COVID-19 has caused devastating health and economic impacts in the United States and across the world. The resulting stress and anxiety, along with loneliness and social isolation due to social distancing is expected to cause a severe mental health crisis, especially among students and young adults who have been separated from their friends and coworkers. Since loneliness is a strong predictor of depression and is associated with a host of adverse health conditions, policies to reduce loneliness could have large benefits for well-being and health. We hypothesize that several mechanisms, including externalities and biased beliefs, may induce people to underinvest in social connections. If so, simple interventions to connect people could reap large public health benefits and enrich the lives of lonely Americans. As is, there is a dearth of causal evidence from large-scale studies that estimate the effectiveness of different interventions to reduce loneliness, and its consequences. The UROP will work with our team to design and implement the experiment and to collect and analyze the data.


Most important for us is a strong motivation and enthusiasm, as well as attention to detail. Understanding of RCTs, econometrics, and programming skills are preferred but not necessary. Please send a brief paragraph describing your interest and relevant experience, as well as your CV/resume as well as an (unofficial) grade report to fschilb@mit.edu and janders@g.harvard.edu.