Thank you for sending us your questions about our research.
We will be updating our FAQs regularly.
FAQs updated 18/06/2020
About Taking Part
Q: I didn’t take part in the first phase of this study, can I still join now?
A: Unfortunately, the recruitment phase of the study is now closed. Thank you for being interested in our study but we’re no longer accepting new participants. You can still help us by sharing news about our work.
Q: Do I have to provide a hair sample to take part in the study?
A. We would prefer the hair samples to be collected because that's the method we use to assess the impact of the pandemic on your physical health. But if you are not able to or not comfortable with providing hair samples, you may still complete the survey.
Q: I forgot to take my first hair sample when I completed the first survey, can I still be part of this study?
A: You can still be part of this study, even if you didn’t take your first hair sample. It’s still very helpful for us to receive a hair sample from you. When you receive your invitation to participate in the second survey it will include your instructions for taking your hair sample and sending it back to us. Or you can see the instructions here: https://www.covidstressstudy.com/hair-sampling-instructions
Q: I can’t find my first hair sample, what should I do?
A: You can still be part of this study even if you can’t locate your first hair sample. It’s still very helpful for us to receive a hair sample from you. When you receive your invitation to participate in the second survey it will include your instructions for taking your hair sample and sending it back to us. Or you can see the instructions here: https://www.covidstressstudy.com/hair-sampling-instructions
About This Study
Q: Why do you need samples of my hair?
A: We hope to analyse cortisol levels using these hair samples. Cortisol is a ‘biomarker’ of stress and also is a hormone that influences how well the immune system works. It can, therefore, tell us whether any emotional stress you have experienced has affected you physically in ways which could affect your health.
Q. What does cortisol tell you about my health?
A. Cortisol is a ‘biomarker’ of stress and also is a hormone that influences how well the immune system works. It can, therefore, tell us whether any emotional stress you have experienced has affected you physically in ways which could affect your health.
Q: What will happen to the sample I provide?
A: Once the hair samples have arrived with us, we will first store them in a safe place for analysis. To extract cortisol from hair, your samples will be assayed following a standard laboratory protocol. We will use your hair samples to extract only cortisol. You will not be identified during the analysis phase.
Q: Are you going to analyse something else with my hair?
A: No. We will use your hair samples to only measure cortisol levels.
Q: I am concerned about the information you get from my hair samples. Are you going to analyse my DNA or something else from them?
A: No. Your hair samples will only be used to measure cortisol levels. We will follow a standard laboratory protocol.
Taking Your Hair Samples
Q: I have a haircut booked. Can I take my sample before I receive my email to complete the survey?
Yes. You can take your hair sample early. Just make a note of the date you took it.
You might find it easier to ask your barber or hairdresser to take your sample for you.
Q: How many hair samples do I need to take?
A: You will need to take 2 hair samples in total. The first one should be taken soon after you complete the first survey. The second one should be taken at soon after you complete the second survey. The two surveys will be about 12 weeks apart. We will send you a reminder when your second survey is due.
Q: Is a single hair or a lock (group) of hair needed?
A: For each hair sample, it should be a lock (group) of hair which is at least 3mm wide (about the width of half a pencil) and 1cm long. This amount will enable us to look at levels of the hormone over a 4-week period.
Q: Do I need to wash my hair before taking the sample?
A: No, you don’t need to wash your hair before taking any hair samples. When we analyse the hair samples, they will be washed as part of our standard procedure.
Q: What if I dyed my hair? Can I still take the hair samples?
A: Yes, you can still take part in the study if you have dyed your hair. Hair washing frequency and hair treatment have only minor effects on cortisol in hair.
Q: I have plenty of grey hair, can I still take part?
A: Yes, you can still take part. We can extract cortisol from grey hair.
Q: I have plenty of grey hair, Do I need to pick them out from the samples?
A: No. You don’t need to take the grey hair out. We can extract cortisol from grey hair.
Q: Where shall I take the hair sample?
A: The hair sample should be taken from the back of your head, the ‘cranial bone’ area where you feel the shape of your head change into a pronounced bulge (i.e., the bumpy bit at the back). This is the area from where we can measure cortisol most reliably.
Q: If I don’t have enough hair at the back, can I take the samples from other area?
A: Unfortunately, we cannot accept hair samples taken from places other than the ‘cranial bone’ area. This is the area from where we can measure cortisol most reliably. However, the length of the hair can be as little as 1cm and the first survey will be open until the end of April. As most people grow 1-2cm of hair per month, you may still be able to participate if you are happy to let your hair grow.
Q: My hair is long or at least longer than 1cm, do I need to cut my hair from the tip when taking the sample?
A: No. Please do not cut your hair from the tip or into pieces while taking the hair sample.
Q: I want to take the hair sample but don’t want it to be seen. How can I hide it?
A: Watch our video to see how to do this here: https://www.covidstressstudy.com/hair-sampling-instructions
Q: Do you need the root of the hair?
A: No. For the analysis of cortisol in hair, we do not need the root of the hair. Please do not pull your hair out!
Q. I can’t see your hair sampling videos
A. We are really sorry you are having difficulties with this. This seems to be related to the firewalls used by some organisations. You should be able to view them if you log on to our site from a personal device rather than a work PC.
Alternatively email us at and we will be able to send you some written instructions.
Or you can view the videos at this YouTube site:
If you have someone able to assist you with taking the sample: https://youtu.be/jiuw9uUCaVo
If you are taking the sample by yourself:
Labelling Your Hair Samples
Q: How do I label the hair sample?
A: Please label your hair sample with 3 pieces of information: (1) indicate the root end with an arrow, (2) your Study ID (this will be given to you automatically on your completion of the first online survey and you will be reminded of your ID when you receive your invitation for the second survey), and (3) the date you take this sample. See our video for further information: https://www.covidstressstudy.com/hair-sampling-instructions
Q: What if I forgot to label the sample with the date I took it?
A: If you still wish to send us your hair sample, please label them clearly with: your Study ID and which sample was taken first and which one was taken 12 weeks later.
Q: I forgot my Study ID, how can I find it?
A: If you forgot your Study ID, please email the research team at recover it.
Sending Your Samples to Us
Q: How do I send my hair samples to you?
A: To return your hair samples, pop both hair samples (still in their labelled foil parcels) into an envelope and mark it with the following FREEPOST address:
Freepost STRESS STUDY
Please just make sure you write STRESS STUDY in uppercase. That’s all you need to do. No stamps. No need to visit the post-office. Your envelope can go straight into the post box.
About the Survey Questions
Q: In the survey, when it says how many times have you left your house does that include garden?
A: No, as long as the garden is part of your property.