The Role of Public Trust and Media in the Psychological and Behavioral Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Trust, Media, and Response to COVID-19
Objective: We investigated the level of psychological problems, perceived risk, safety behaviors, and the potential roles of demographic variables, public trust, media, and prior anxiety to illness during the COVID-19pandemic among Iranians.
Method: In this cross sectional study, using a convenient and snowball sampling method, we distributed an online questionnaire to participants and collected data on their demographic variables, mental health status, the consumption of and level of trust to various media, the level of public trust, and perceived risk and safety behaviors regards COVID-19. Our final sample consisted of 1881 Iranian residents. We used descriptive analysis, bivariate correlation, univariable and multivariable linear regression analysis, and univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis for data analysis.
Results: The mental health problems have increased in comparison to past national survey; 24.1% vs 10.39% for depression, 37.93% vs 16.7% for social dysfunction, and 41.33% vs 29.5% for anxiety, and 31.12% vs 29.08% for somatization. We also found high percent of acute stress 52.71% (95% CI: 50.45-54.96). Being female, married, and having a higher educational level increased the odds of safety behaviors. Public trust and national media can regulate the negative effect of the pandemic, while increasing perceived risk and appropriate safety behaviors can decrease psychological problems and disorders. However, social media increases perceived risk, safety behaviors, and psychological problems, especially severe acute stress.
Conclusion: We are in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effects will increase. Many people have lost their relatives, their jobs, their social contacts, and are faced with a surge of negative news. Authorities should consider these critical issues and adopt appropriate communicative and supportive approaches to prevent their negative effects at both individual and societal levels.
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