Anthony Burrow – Getting back on track in the age of COVID-19

Anthony Burrow

Anthony Burrow, associate professor of human development and associate dean for extension and outreach in the College of Human Ecology, has been appointed Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

A central focus of Dr. Burrow's research is the impact of purpose on one's identity and sense of self. In a recent Scientific American op-ed he co-wrote with Patrick Hill, they raise concerns about the unsettling effect COVID-19 has had on people's lives, leading to what they describe as "feelings of derailment – an individual's sense of disconnection from their past selves, life directions, and motivations." As we determine what the new "normal" looks like during a pandemic, the uncertainties have increased stress and depression among those struggling to get their lives back on track. Dr. Burrow draws attention to the need for adequate mental health resources in response to this crisis.

Drs. Burrow and Hill also propose ways to help members of retirement communities feel a sense of purpose during the pandemic. 

  • Technology is needed to maintain social connections that provide social support and sense of purpose. This is a challenge for communities given limitations of staff and accessible technology. They believe that creating schedules will allow members to plan their days around meeting friends and family.
  • Connections between members of the community need to be maintained being mindful of social distancing guidelines. Community engagement can be fostered through joint activities between members in their individual living spaces. Also, correspondence between members, written or electronic, should be encouraged.
  • It is important to encourage community members to think about how their generation overcame past challenges. Asking members to reflect on how they navigated the obstacles has the added benefit of informing people outside of their community ways to cope with the pandemic.

Journal articles referenced for this story:

Burrow, A. L., Hill, P. L., Ratner, K., & Fuller-Rowell, T. E. (2020). Derailment: Conceptualization, measurement, and adjustment correlates of perceived change in self and direction. Journal of personality and social psychology118(3), 584–601.

Hill, P. L., & Burrow, A. L. (2020). Derailment as a risk factor for greater mental health issues following pandemic. Psychiatry Research, 289, 113093. https://doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113093

Hill, P. L., Lewis, N. A., & Burrow, A. L. (2020). Purpose after Retirement during COVID-19: Trying to Find Direction in Retirement Communities. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. https://doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2020.04.019