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Table of Contents
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 43-46

Role of media on perceived vulnerability of the public at early stage of COVID-19 pandemic


1 Community and Maternity Health Unit, College of Nursing, University of Duhok, Iraq
2 Psychiatric and Pediatric Nursing Unit, College of Nursing, University of Duhok, Iraq

Date of Submission22-Jul-2021
Date of Decision31-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance05-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication05-Jul-2022

Correspondence Address:
Mr. Deldar Morad Abdulah
Community Health Unit, College of Nursing, University of Duhok, Duhok
Iraq
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/iopn.iopn_73_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has spread across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic could have a considerable psychological effect. We aimed to explore the role of media on the level of perceived infectability and germ aversion toward coronavirus infection of the public at early stage of the pandemic. Methods: In this study, 708 individuals who live in different geographical locations of the Duhok Governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan were included between March 16 and 25, 2020. Results: The mean age of the participants was 27.40 (18–74 years). The participants reported that traditional news services have a relaxing role regarding the coronavirus pandemic (58.3%) in contrast to a stressing role of social media (64.7%). The mean values of vulnerability, perceived infectability, and germ aversions to COVID-19 infection were 4.74, 3.99, and 5.49 of 7.0, respectively. Participants who considered social media to have a stressing role were more likely to be bothered when someone sneezes without covering their mouths (4.45 vs. 4.04; P = 0.044). In addition, they were more likely to think that they catch an infectious disease (3.89 vs. 3.51; P = 0.016), and have a less strong immune system to protect them from most illnesses (2.85 vs. 2.40; P < 0.001), respectively. Conclusions: This study showed that social media has a stressing role to the public regarding COVID-19 infection.

Keywords: Fear, infection, universal precautions


How to cite this article:
Abdulah DM, Piro RS. Role of media on perceived vulnerability of the public at early stage of COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Psy Nsg 2022;19:43-6

How to cite this URL:
Abdulah DM, Piro RS. Role of media on perceived vulnerability of the public at early stage of COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Psy Nsg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 15];19:43-6. Available from: https://www.ijpn.in/text.asp?2022/19/1/43/349894




  Introduction Top


The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the world, including Iraqi Kurdistan.[1] This new virus spreads rapidly and accounts for a 2% mortality rate.[2] The number of persons infecting and dying is increasing dramatically. People are socially separated and quarantined and use masks and gloves as barriers to virus transmission.[3] The previous survey conducted in this region reported that the public has fear of COVID-19 infection. Interestingly, only a small percentage of the participants do not minimize their exposures by reducing close exposure to respiratory droplets (14.5%) and visit public areas during the epidemic (28.7%) and 94.6% wash their hands more often than before.[1]

Many persons are not confident that the health-care system of their community enables them to deal with the new cases of an epidemic.[4] This lack of trust in the health-care system may develop further fear and perceived infectability about the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic. We aimed to explore the role of traditional news services and social media on the level of perceived infectability and germ aversion toward COVID-19 infection of the public at early stages.


  Methods Top


Study design and sampling

In this study, the individuals who live in different geographical locations of the Duhok Governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan were invited online to present their vulnerability to the novel coronavirus epidemic. The authors invited individuals on social media by sending an online Google form between March 16 and 25, 2020. The authors used a web-based Google form to prevent spreading disease through droplets or contacts.

Iraqi Kurdistan officially has four governorates. The governorates are Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Halabja, and Duhok. The coronavirus was officially announced in Iraqi Kurdistan in the Sulaymaniyah Governorate on March 1, 2020. The infection was reported in a family and a woman who recently returned from Iran. The confirmed cases were announced in other governorates as well, including Duhok.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

The persons aged 18 years and older and who live in different geographical areas of the Duhok Governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan were eligible to include in this study regardless of sociodemographic aspects. The participants had various educational levels, religions, and occupations. The individuals who were enabled to read and write the online form and live in geographic areas of the Duhok Governorate border were eligible to participate. The question items were created in the required technique to avoid missing information.

Data collection and measures

The general information of the participants was collected in the first part of the questionnaire. The general information included age, gender, educational level, and sleeping/24 h. The educational level was categorized as read and write, under high school, high school, institute, and college and above. The institute degree means completing 2 years at a university in this region. The subjects who completed 4 years and more at a university were categorized as college and above. The participants were asked to evaluate the role of traditional news services (such as radio/TVs) and social media as stressing or relaxing. Stressing was defined as making fear and horror toward the coronavirus epidemic. However, relaxing was defined as the role of presenting scientific information with logic caution to take preventive measures against coronavirus infection.

The vulnerability to infectious diseases was measured by a 15-item scale rated on a 7-item Likert scale. The scale assessed the beliefs of someone's susceptibility to infectious diseases (perceived infectability) and emotional discomfort, indicating especially high potential for pathogen transmission (germ aversion). The scale was rated from strongly disagree to strongly agree.[5] The perceived infectability was measured using Subscale 1 (perceived infectability) including items 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14, and germ aversion using Subscale 2 (germ aversion) including items 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. Items 3, 5, 11, 12, 13, and 14 were reverse scored.[5] The Cronbach's alpha of 15 items included in this study was 0.68.

Ethical considerations

This study was approved by the Institutional Board of the College of Nursing, University of Duhok. The written consent was obtained from participants before filling the questionnaire. The confidentiality of the personal information of the participants was protected in this study.


  Results Top


We included 708 participants in this study. The mean age of the participants was 27.40 (18-74 years). The participants were males (52.4%) and females (47.6%) slept on average 8.10 (SD: 1.32) h. The participants had different educational levels, including reading and writing (1.3%), under high school (1.8%), high school (11.7%), institute (11.2%), and college and above (74.0%). The participants reported that traditional news services had a relaxing role regarding the COVID-19 epidemic (58.3%), while social media had a stress role (64.7%). The total mean value of vulnerability to COVID-19 infection was 4.74 (SD: 0.68) of 7.0. The mean values of perceived infectability and germ aversions were 3.99 (SD: 0.92) and 5.49 (SD: 0.89), respectively. The vulnerability and perceived infectability score values were significantly higher in participants who considered social media stressing compared to the scores of participants who considered social media relaxing (4.79 vs. 4.67 and 4.06 vs. 3.87; P = 0.018 and P = 0.009), respectively.

The participants who considered social media stressing were more likely to be bothered when someone sneezes without covering their mouths (4.45 vs. 4.04; P = 0.044). In addition, they were more likely to think that they catch an infectious disease (3.89 vs. 3.51; P = 0.16), and their immune system was less likely to protect them from most illnesses (2.85 vs. 2.40; P < 0.001), respectively [Table 1].
Table 1: Comparison of vulnerability to coronavirus infection between stressing and relaxing social media

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  Discussion Top


The recent survey conducted in the U. S. among 808 adults on January 31–February 1, 2020, reported that most of the participants (66.0%) consider the 2019-nCoV a real threat and 56.0% are very concerned about the transmission of coronavirus infection in the U. S.[6] Another poll conducted in 2200 American adults between January 24 and 26, 2020, showed that 37.0% of the participants are very concerned about spreading the virus. Interestingly, 25.0% of them were more concerned about the coronavirus than the 2014 Ebola outbreak disease. Many of the participants were unconfident about controlling the spread of this virus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[7] Different vulnerability factors could have a role in coronaphobia such as intolerance of uncertainty, perceived vulnerability to disease, and anxiety proneness.[4]

Plenty of media news has given attention to the critical question of whether the health-care system enables us to deal with an influx of new cases of COVID-19 infection. We feel that the failure of Italian and Spanish health-care systems in dealing with this new epidemic may raise the critical perceived infectability and fear in public in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, whether the health system enables them to deal with this epidemic or not, the current study calls governments to pay attention to the role of social media on the psychological status of the public. Social media enable individuals to create content, collaborate, and share information with members. Currently, social media is a significant source of health information for individuals across the world. It is considered to be a global platform for outbreak and health risk communication.[8] Traditional news sources, such as newspapers and radio and television broadcasts, offer one-way dissemination of information. In this regard, journalists and broadcasters simply deliver information to the public. However, social media has a gatekeeping role in the dissemination of information. Social media users decide the information to share and where to share it. Therefore, the persons amplify some information selectively and ignore some other information, or may create their contents.[9]

It is required to mention that social media is a two-edged sword and can rapidly spread information and misinformation. Hence, social media develop or quell fear and can impact disease spread through influencing people's behaviors. During the coronavirus outbreak, a large amount of information about the route of infection, infection origin, infection and mortality rate, and virus complications is released into social media. Some of the information, words, and pictures would be useful. However, many of these texts and pictures are fueled by rumors, misinformation, innuendo, and hypersensational claims. Accordingly, many of the people receive incorrect assertions, uncensored images, and unqualified guidance resulting in danger to the health and undermining the stability of the societies.[10]

The information posted on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, makes fear to the public. This is why the individuals are careful when someone sneezes without covering their mouths. As a result, they think that they are more likely to catch infectious diseases, and their immune system would be less likely to protect them from most illnesses. A survey of YouTube videos conducted during the Zika virus pandemic reported that 24% have misleading information.[11] We had no access to illiterate and low education level persons due to the curfew policy over the past 3 weeks.

Implications

The public needs to receive the appropriate and sufficient information about the transmission methods of the COVID-19 infection. In addition, the psychosocial support by the psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses could alleviate the level of fear and perceived vulnerability.


  Conclusions Top


The present study showed that the public has a high level of perceived infectivity and germ aversion about the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the study showed that social media have a stressing role for the public toward the COVID-19 pandemic in this region.

Ethical approval

The approval of this protocol was obtained from the University of Duhok.

Acknowledgments

The authors of the study would like to present their deep thanks to the individual who participated in this study.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Abdulah DM, Aziz Qazli SS, Suleman SK. Response of the public to preventive measures of COVID-19 in Iraqi Kurdistan. Disaster Med Public Health Prep 2020;5:1-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Merza MA, Aswad SM, Sulaiman HM, Abdulah DM, Rasheed WS, Taib NI. Clinical and epidemiological characteristics and outcomes of coronavirus disease-19 patients in a large longitudinal study. Int J Health Sci (Qassim) 2021;15:29-41.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks. WHO website, WHO; 2020; access link: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Taylor S. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2019.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Duncan LA, Schaller M, Park JH. Perceived vulnerability to disease: Development and validation of a 15-item self-report instrument. Pers Individ Dif 2009;47:541-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
National Public Radio. Poll: Most Americans Say U.S. 'Doing Enough' To Prevent Coronavirus Spread; 2020, accessed date: March 2020, access link: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/02/04/802387025/poll-most-americans-say-u-s-doing-enough-to-prevent-coronavirus-spread.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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8.
Adebayo G, Neumark Y, Gesser-Edelsburg A, Abu Ahmad W, Levine H. Zika pandemic online trends, incidence and health risk communication: A time trend study. BMJ Glob Health 2017;2:e000296.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Kilgo DK, Yoo J, Johnson TJ. Spreading Ebola panic: Newspaper and social media coverage of the 2014 Ebola health crisis. Health Commun 2019;34:811-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Walker J. Civil society's role in a public health crisis. Issues Sci Technol 2016;32:43.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Bora K, Das D, Barman B, Borah P. Are internet videos useful sources of information during global public health emergencies? A case study of YouTube videos during the 2015-16 Zika virus pandemic. Pathog Glob Health 2018;112:320-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
    



 
 
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