Indiana University–Bloomington (United States)


Loneliness is a heavy burden, with long-term costs to well-being and public health. LGBTQ+ individuals are especially vulnerable to loneliness and its consequential impacts over time, including increased suicidal behavior, clinical depression and anxiety, elevated risk of heart failure and stroke, and cognitive decay. During this pandemic, social restrictions have created an environment especially facilitative to loneliness. Further, preliminary data show that people with greater feelings of loneliness during the pandemic are at heightened risk for Covid-19 infection, worsened mental health, and difficulties in their relationships. This effect was emphasized in LGBTQ+ participants. Here, we propose a longitudinal study on loneliness and well-being in LGBTQ+ individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a 30-day daily diary study and extended monthly check-ins. To align with the current safe-at-home circumstances, as well as with the future of social relationships, it is necessary to understand how digital interactions can be felt as high-quality connections and as significant contributors to wellness. Thus, our project will specifically focus on participants’ digital interactions as conduits for meaningful connections and buffers against loneliness. The resulting data will allow for modelling loneliness over time, linking changes in loneliness with both personal and digital interaction factors, and identifying buffers and catalysts of loneliness and related consequences to well-being. We plan to disseminate our results broadly, to both academic and public audiences, and work toward developing an effective digital intervention for loneliness in the LGBTQ+ community.

Principal Investigators

Amanda Gesselman

Assistant Research Scientist, Kinsey Institute, Indiana University–Bloomington

Dr. Amanda Gesselman is a social-developmental psychologist with additional training in advanced methodology and statistics. She has been with the Kinsey Institute since 2014, and is now the associate director for research at the Kinsey Institute and the inaugural Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist at Indiana University. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Gesselman has been involved in a wide array of social-behavioral research. Her current research interests are in new trends in the romantic and sexual lives of adults around the world, the influence of close relationships on health and well-being, and how technology can be used to facilitate meaningful connections. Dr. Gesselman has served as a scientific or statistical consultant for various corporations, nonprofit organizations, and academic collaborations. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and covered by international media outlets including the New York Times, Time, VICE, and Netflix’s Explained.

Justin Garcia

Acting Executive Director and Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Indiana University

Dr. Justin Garcia is an evolutionary biologist and sex researcher. He and his colleagues have conducted research on a variety of topics related to social and sexual behaviors and intimate relationships, including variation in monogamy, intimacy, gender, courtship, dating, desire, satisfaction, and reproductive strategies. Professor Garcia has a dual faculty appointment with the Kinsey Institute and Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is also cochair of the Interdepartmental Graduate Committee on Human Sexuality, which directs the PhD minor in human sexuality. In addition, Dr. Garcia is adjunct faculty with the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, and holds affiliate faculty appointments with the IU Network Science Institute and the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University Bloomington, where he is also a research fellow with the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention in the School of Public Health–Bloomington. Since 2010, he has also served as scientific advisor to His work has appeared in a wide variety of news outlets and documentaries, including CNN, MSNBC, HBO, The Dr. Oz Show, Netflix, National Geographic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TIME, Cosmopolitan, and Vanity Fair.

Justin Lehmiller

Research Fellow, Indiana University

Dr. Justin Lehmiller received his PhD in social psychology from Purdue University. He is a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, having been honored three times with the Certificate of Teaching Excellence from Harvard University, where he taught for several years. He is also a prolific researcher and scholar who has published more than 50 academic works to date, including a textbook titled The Psychology of Human Sexuality (now in its second edition) that is used in college classrooms around the world. Dr. Lehmiller's research focuses on topics including casual sex, sexual fantasy, sexual health, and friends with benefits. His studies have appeared in all of the leading journals on human sexuality, including the Journal of Sex Research, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Alexandra Marcotte

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Indiana University

Dr. Alexa Marcotte is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. Her research focuses on the intersections between sexuality, intimacy, and technology. She is especially interested in how people use technology to facilitate their sexual and romantic lives, as well as how they negotiate consent in digital contexts. Her previous research includes a study on men’s and women’s reactions to receiving unsolicited genital images and a study on the ways in which people engage with social media during initiation and dissolution phases of their relationships. Currently, she is researching digital sex work, loneliness, and intimacy. She earned her PhD in gender studies at Indiana University in 2019.

Kristen Mark

Associate Professor, University of Kentucky

Dr. Kristen Mark is a behavioral health scientist with an academic background in psychology and public health. She is an associate professor and director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at University of Kentucky in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Promotion, the faculty fellow for the Office for LGBTQ* Resources at University of Kentucky, and affiliate faculty at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Dr. Mark studies many aspects of sexual health including, but not limited to, women’s sexual health, sexual desire and desire discrepancies, sexual satisfaction, sexual well-being, and sexuality education. She has served as a board member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and was the Scientific Program chair for 2017–2019. She is a member of the Canadian Sex Research Forum and the International Association for Relationships Research and an elected member of the International Academy of Sex Research. She is also a certified sexuality educator through the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Her research has been widely published in several academic journals such as the Journal of Sex Research and Archives of Sexual Behavior and has been presented at over 100 academic conferences.