CoronaCare – An ethnographic study of the risks to and potentialities for social health during the Corona crisis


The CoronaCare study examines how the political regulations introduced in Germany to contain the Covid-19 pandemic impact upon individual and collective "social health". We understand “social health” to be a central form of health which is maintained through and activated in everyday social interactions inside of communities, social networks and families. Social health centers the importance of our lived social experiences in, for example, the family, a sports club or at work. It highlights the importance community and togetherness have for our physical health and mental well-being.

The health policy responses inside of the current pandemic, however, have introduced a radical new normal which requires us to maintain physical distance and often to wear masks in order to slow down the spread of the virus. These historically unprecedented regulations have dramatically altered the way we live our daily lives: from how we greet each other, to the way we shop, to how we socialize, work, travel, and even experience ourselves and others. In other words, the fundamental basis of everyday social life has been suddenly and sweepingly transformed. Under Corona, people experience themselves as simultaneously a risk to others and as at risk in their social environment. This perception of risk, which often goes hand in hand with uncertainty and anxiety, has profound implications for social life.

Research Aims

In these extraordinary times, where life has been re-structured by social distancing and communication often takes place through masks, we are constantly developing and testing new strategies to maintain our social health and to make life inside of the pandemic worth living. The aim of the study is to understand how people adapt to this new, reconfigured social world, in which the very basis of social life is in a constant state of emergency. In particular, we are interested in understanding the strategies that people develop and use to maintain their social health and to cope physically and emotionally with the constant presence of infection, mandatory social and physical distancing, and the enduring presence of insecurity and fear.

We pay special attention to people who privately or professionally care for family members (including children), friends or other people in need of help and care, or who are looked after or cared for in their daily lives. Since social isolation and physical distancing are usually not possible for these groups, they are particularly exposed to the risk of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it further.

At the same time, their (caring)work in times of social crisis is an indispensable condition for individual well-being and social cohesion. We understand care work to mean the giving and receiving of care in informal settings, such as the family, as well as caring for patients in institutional settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes. We want to understand how people in such caring relationships cope with the crisis in order to derive empirically informed strategies and recommendations that could be utilized by communities and individuals to maintain their social health.

CoronaCare, anchored in a socio-medical and life-world perspective, has four specific research objectives:

  • To understand the tensions that arise in the lives of individuals who live under political regulations working to minimize in-person interactions;
  • To analyze the strategies that individuals and communities develop to preserve social health;
  • To examine how caregivers in informal and institutional settings negotiate the tensions in their care relationships amid the social isolation and ‘risk worries’ of the Corona crisis;
  • To document how care receivers, experience these tensions, in particular social isolation and the ‘risky’ relationship with their caregivers.

Research question

How do the political and societal responses to the pandemic impact upon social health? And how do people negotiate the risks regarding their social health?

We are looking for study participants!

The Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology at the Medical University of Brandenburg Theodor Fontane in collaboration with the Institute of Social Medicine and Health System Research at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg is looking for study participants. In order to gain as diverse a picture as possible about how the Covid 19 pandemic is lived in the everyday, people in different life situations are invited to participate. In principle, anyone who resides in Germany and is over 18 years of age can participate.

What does participation in the study look like?

Once you have decided to participate in the study, a member of the research team will speak with you by phone. A typical phone interview lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour. However, it is up to you to decide how long the interviews will last and indeed what you want to tell us. Possible topics could include, for example, how you have maintained contact with family and friends during the restrictions, how you are dealing with the changed circumstances in your private and professional lives, and what challenges and opportunities you see personally in the current situation. The telephone interviews are recorded with a digital recorder, written down and analyzed by the research team in encrypted form.

We thank you for your interest in the study. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have!


Research assistant
Luisa Wagenschwanz
Phone: +49 03381/ 41-1294
Institute for Social Medicine and Epidemiology,
Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane
Hochstraße 15, 14770 Brandenburg

Project leadership and coordination

Project leadership:
Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg
Project coordination:
Dr. Sibille Merz


CoronaCare is funded as part of the funding initiative "Erforschung von Covid-19 im Zuge des Ausbruchs von SarS-CoV-2" (project number 01KI20117) by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany).