Anxiety and Coping during COVID-19: What General Public in India say
Research study done by Professors of Goa Institute of Management, Goa
Health

Anxiety and Coping during COVID-19: What General Public in India say Research study done by Professors of Goa Institute of Management, Goa

Dr. Divya Singhal

Chairperson, Centre for Social Sensitivity and Action & Associate Professor,

Goa Institute of Management, Sanquelim Campus, Goa-403505

A decision to announce a disease as deadly and pandemic in nature has a consequence beyond physical health domain. Pandemics have a psycho-social impact on the society.

I recall, I was in Bangalore for official work in the second week of March and Bangalore started witnessing more COVID-19 cases and government announced malls, parks, etc. closure. And, during that time I travelled back to my work place i.e. Goa. The experience of travelling soon before the Janta Curfew made me vulnerable and it made us realize that this virus has no discrimination of caste, colour, ethnicity, social profile, education, gender, etc. Many people who travelled at that time felt vulnerable and started feeling anxious about their health.

There are seldom studies being conducted on common people in India specifically about the way they have responded to a situation like a pandemic. Since 1918, the Indian public had not encountered a pandemic of this Covid-19’s magnitude in 100 years and there is limited literature available to understand their behavioral response. So, me and my colleague Dr. Padhmanabhan Vijayaraghavan decided to carry out a survey based study to examine Indian public’s reactions towards Covid-19’s outbreak by gauging the psychological response in terms of anxiety and their coping behavior adapted during that lock-down time period.

We designed a questionnaire and gathered responses. The demographic profile of the respondents shows that 63% respondents were male and 37% were female. Majority of them (42.86 % and 32.03 %) exist in the age group of 18-31 & 32-45 respectively and 9.09 % exist in the age group of 46- 51 and higher age groups consisted of 16.01 %. Out of total respondents, 60.17% are from non-metro cities and 39.83% are from Metro cities.

Our analysis of health related anxiety reveals that more than 50% of the respondents overwhelmingly identified that they are worried about their own health; however, it is important to note from the finding that a very large group of respondents ( >80% ) have felt that they are more worried about their loved ones. Majority of the respondents have become conscious of any bodily changes, sensations, mild cold, cough, sneezing and experience concern and attribute those changes to the symptoms of Covid-19.

With all media and government channels emphasising hygiene practices, etc, it was obvious to have larger awareness among people with regard to handwashing practices. However, what was interesting to note was that 78% of our respondents said that they have started washing their hands consciously as they have never done before.

When asked, what are they doing to cope up during the Lockdown period, respondents data suggests that a majority of the respondents (41%) reported that they are not doing any physical activities such as Yoga during the lock-down period and another (19%) were not sure about engaging them in physical activities. They also responded that they (57%) were not practising any mind calming practices such as meditation and (18%) were not sure about practising any meditative practices. However, the majority of the respondents (70%) reported that they spend most of the time resting during the lock-down period. An overwhelming majority of the respondents (84%) had planned to learn something new during the period.

More than 50% of the respondents have reported that their social media usage has gone up as well as their time spent in watching movies/shows online.

It is also important to note that respondents (>80%) agree that their technology usage to connect with their friends and relatives has gone up.

Our data suggests that a large group of respondents (60%) enjoy receiving, reading and forwarding humorous messages in their social media. About 74% of the respondents were happy that they have got more time to spend with their family during the lock-down situation.

A very large majority (>90%)of the respondents reported that they have a role in preventing the spread of the disease. They believe that they are an integral part of preventive mechanisms and they have responsibility to follow rigorously on the precautions suggested by the government. In addition, they feel responsible towards safeguarding themselves from the disease as well as in preventing the spread to their family members, neighbours and society.

A large group of respondents (>50%) feel that reading forwarded messages on Covid-19 is depressing. An overwhelming majority of the respondents (>90%) agree that they discourage unverified forwarded messages on illness in social media.

Based on the data from our study, we can say that during the Covid-19 outbreak’s lock-down initial period, respondents displayed high involvement with social media, watching online movies/ shows and prolonged resting. This prolonged engagement with social media, watching movies, and continuous rest or sleeping can be viewed as an escape or avoidance coping mechanism.

Secondly, respondents have resorted to coping by seeking social and emotional support through connecting with their friends and relatives as well as spending more time with their family members which can be viewed as social support seeking behaviour. Findings from various studies state that social support, especially family social support, acts as strong protective factors for anxiety and reinforces the belief that support resources are available for them.

Thirdly, respondents have resorted to active coping strategy by discouraging unverified forwarded information on the illness; and also engaging in positive reappraisal of the situation by actively planning to learn something new during the period.

At this time, when we are under lockdown, it is important that we work on positive coping mechanisms. Spend time on meditation, exercise or yoga. There are many positive initiatives taken in this direction. Covidav is a free initiative by a Goan startup Octo Internet and mental health professionals. They came together and offered online support for those struggling with their emotions during the pandemic. We need to talk about building connections, maintaining physical distances.

The study related Infographics can be accessed from https://osf.io/pdfkv/

https://osf.io/dr3tx/ (in Hindi); Detailed paper can be accessed here: http://psyarxiv.com/jeksn/

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