Dr. Terry Foster

Social Psychologist – Loneliness and Social Isolation, Ryerson University

Dr. Shayna Skakoon-Sparling has a PhD. in Applied Social Psychology from the University of Windsor and is currently a CIHR postdoctoral fellow at X University (Ryerson). Shayna’s research explores the ways in which belongingness needs relate to health and well-being. For example, she examines how minority stress and social support contribute to and buffer against loneliness in sexual minority men. In this work, she is exploring the conceptualizations of social and emotional loneliness, the adaptive and maladaptive strategies people use to cope with loneliness, and the environmental and psychosocial factors that mediate the emotional distress and sexual risk behaviours associated with loneliness.

Her preliminary work on this topic has shown that supportive relationships are an important resource for coping. Among HIV-negative sexual minority men higher perceived social support was associated with lower levels of minority stress, depression, and anxiety. She has also found evidence of both direct effects on HIV risk reduction behaviours and a buffering effect: higher perceived social support mitigated the impact of internalized homonegativity (minority stress) on the likelihood of engaging in condomless anal sex without PrEP use.

In her on-going SSHRC-funded research programs, Shayna is exploring how fluctuations in online and in-person sources of social support may impact feelings of loneliness and how fluctuation in loneliness may relate to changes in substance use and higher-risk sexual behaviour among sexual minority men. Shayna is also developing an intervention study to explore two potential pathways to improve individuals’ ability to cope effectively with feelings of loneliness.


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