Journal of Indira Gandhi Institute Of Medical Sciences

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year
: 2021  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48--51

Stigma related to coronavirus disease 2019 among the general population in India


Shishir Kumar, Shubham Shree, Setu Sinha, Tulika Singh, Sanjay Kumar 
 Department of Community Medicine, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, Bihar, India

Correspondence Address:
Shishir Kumar
Department of Community Medicine, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, Bihar
India

Abstract

Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviors against the people suffering from it as well as its perceived threat of contamination. The possible reasons behind such behaviors may be poor knowledge about the disease and its safety measures. This is leading to drive people in hiding their illness or preventing them from seeking health-care facilities. Objectives: (1) To identify the factors of anxiety, fear, and stigma related to COVID-19 in the general population and (2) to assess the impact of information related to COVID-19 on the stigmatized behavior of the study population. Materials and Methods: This study is a descriptive, cross-sectional, anonymous online questionnaire-based survey using mixed (quantitative and qualitative) research methods. Random sampling technique was used through online snowballing technique. Results: About 52.4% respondent's feels having potential risk of COVID very dangerous. Only 31.3% respondents felt worried and depressed with the news of COVID-19 in the past 2 weeks. Whereas, 58.6% respondents found that this pandemic has affected their mental health negatively to some extent. Overall 44.1% respondents agreed that COVID-19 has generated stigma against the specific group of people. Although 81.3% respondents did not find any discrimination against service providers or caregivers of the COVID-19 patients in their community. Conclusion: COVID-19 has created a lot of fear and anxiety among the general population, but still correct information and prior knowledge about its prevention and care have generated a positive attitude among people to fight against this disease as well as reducing stigmatized behavior related to it.



How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Shree S, Sinha S, Singh T, Kumar S. Stigma related to coronavirus disease 2019 among the general population in India.J Indira Gandhi Inst Med Sci 2021;7:48-51


How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Shree S, Sinha S, Singh T, Kumar S. Stigma related to coronavirus disease 2019 among the general population in India. J Indira Gandhi Inst Med Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 23 ];7:48-51
Available from: http://www.jigims.co.in/text.asp?2021/7/1/48/318920


Full Text



 Introduction



Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious disease which spreads fast and can infect any one of us, which was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Due to the severity of its spread, the WHO declared it as pandemic in the year 2019–2020.[1] The current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviors against the people suffering from it as well as on the basis of their ethnic background and perceived threat of contamination. We can protect ourselves through social distancing, washing our hands regularly, and following sneezing/coughing etiquettes, etc., However, this has created a lot of havoc all over the world which has increased overwhelming fear, anxiety and myths related to the contamination, and course of the disease.[2]

Social stigma is negatively associated with a person or group of people who suffer outbreak of a specific contagious disease. It may include labeling, stereotyping or discriminating against to treating differently, negative experiences, poor social support or loss of status, and services to a diseased person.[3],[4] The possible reasons behind such behaviors may be poor knowledge about the existing trend of the disease and its safety measures. This leads to drive people in hiding their illness or preventing them from seeking health-care facilities immediately or adopting the precautionary behaviors as per the guidelines[5]. Evidence clearly shows that worry and stigma around the communicable diseases affect the response[6]. What works is building trust in reliable health services and recommendation, showing empathy with those affected, understanding the health problem itself, and adopting effective, smart sensible measures, so therefore people can help keep themselves and their members of the family, friends, and loved ones safe.[7],[8]

We want to measure the effect of fear because fear increasing affect is a characteristic of prejudice and therefore represents a way in which stigma is manifested or expressed among nonstigmatized individuals[9]. We want to measure whether affected toward people with COVID-19 the relationship between perceptions that COVID-19 will be threatening (i.e., contagious and life-threatening) and desire for distance from others with COVID-19.[10] The aim of this study is to assess the stigmatized behavior among the general population and know its causes and responsible factors leading to social stigma against COVID-19 patients and their caregivers further as service providers.

Research questions

Are fears related to COVID-19 and its contagious spread responsible for stigmatized behaviors among the general population?Is the available information and awareness related to COVID-19 helpful in reducing stress among the general population?

Objectives

To identify the factors of anxiety, fear, and stigma related to COVID-19 in the general populationTo assess the impact of information related to COVID-19 on the stigmatized behavior of the study population.

 Materials and Methods



Study design

This study design was adopted a descriptive, cross-sectional, anonymous online questionnaire-based survey using mixed (quantitative and qualitative) research methods. Random sampling technique was used through the online snowballing technique keeping in view the standards of social distancing protocols as per the directives of the Indian Government to reduce physical interaction or face-to-face interaction as citizens continue to reserve themselves at home. This study will focus on the existing behavior and psychosocial response of the general population on COVID-19 outbreak. It will also gain information about the existing knowledge and practices related to social stigma against this disease.

Study area

Anonymous online survey of the general population.

Study population

General population with digital accessibility and knowledge of its use.

Duration of the study

Twelve calendar months after ethical approval.

Sample size

Based on proportion of anxiety and stigma COVID-19 among study population:

Proportion of anxiety and stigma: 0.33Absolute precision (%): 5Confidence interval (%): 95Number needed (n): 340 but we receive the responses 374.

Ethical consideration

This protocol was placed to the Dean Research Committee and then to the Institutional Human Ethics Committee, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna for approval, and the study was initiated after getting approval from Dean Research and Institutional Human Ethics Committee (Letter No-1755/IEC/IGIMS/2020 dated 28-09-2020). The consent was obtained in an understandable Hindi and English languages of the participants.

Data collection methodology

Data collection was done byW taking consent to be a part of the study by the respondents. The principles of snowball sampling technique were adapted using an online URL link which was circulated by the investigator through social media for capturing the data from people with digital accessibility and knowledge of its use. Demographic details were recorded to receive the age, gender, socioeconomic status, occupational status, religious status, and marital status of the respondents. Data were collected using a self-constructed, prestructured, precoded online self-administered questionnaire through Google form. A closed-ended self-administered questionnaire with some open-ended responses was used. Information collected using the above-mentioned tools was converted into a computer-based spreadsheet using Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Limitations

Sample of this study cannot be generalized as it is limited to only educated class of people who had online accessibility to participate in this study. The time period of the study was October 2020, which indicates a major shift in the information and perception of the respondents about COVID-19 as compared to early detection of the disease.

 Results



As per [Table 1] shows majority of the respondents were male i.e., 53.2% while 46.8% were female. 92.5% respondents resided in urban areas. 70.9 % respondents were married and 88.5% were Hindus. 54.3% respondents were highly educated. 46.0% respondents were found employed.{Table 1}

[Figure 1] indicates that 44.1% of the study participants found stigma present in their society against COVID-19. While, 58.6% respondents were found anxious about developing the disease in them, 31.3% respondents were found to be worried and depressed by the news and information received about COVID-19 and its spread and 16.3% respondents showed irritable behavior as well. 22.2% respondents had preoccupied fear about the contamination and serious consequences of this disease. While majority of the respondents, i.e., 52.4% agreed that COVID-19 is a very dangerous disease.{Figure 1}

[Figure 2] shows the perceived category of discrimination against various groups among the general population. 40.6% respondents found that discrimination was against the patients suffering from C0VID-19, whereas 18.7% caregivers of COVID-19 patient were discriminated. Only 15% subjects agreed to discriminatory behaviors against doctors, nurses, health-care workers, and various frontline workers. 10.2% respondents perceived discrimination against specific ethnic groups, and only 15.5% perceived migrant laborers were discriminated against the spread of this deadly disease.{Figure 2}

 Discussion



Although we found a lot number of news through social media related to discriminatory behavior and presence of stigma related to COVID-19 in our society, it was obvious that the fear and anxiety related to the course of the spread and contamination has provoked a lot of panic and havoc among the general population.[9],[10] Lack of appropriate information and treatment is one of the major causes behind this. Social media plays an important role in spreading knowledge and information but on the other hand was misused to spread rumors and hoax causing mass panic.[3],[8]

The sociodemographic profile suggests that majority of the respondents were male, highly educated, employed, and living in the urban community. This survey included general population consciously excluding health-care professionals. As the study population was well educated, the level of perceived stigma was found less comparatively to other studies and reports. This study suggests the need of public health counselors and a strong strategic action plan for mass intervention in the times of crisis and pandemic situations.[7],[8] Preventive health-care strategies and source of right information are very important in the pandemic situations where treatment is not defined.[6]

 Conclusions



Although COVID-19 has created a lot of fear and anxiety among the general population, but still correct information and prior knowledge about its prevention and care have generated a positive attitude among people to fight against this disease as well as reducing stigmatized behavior among them related to this deadly disease.

Negative news about COVID-19 had played a major role in spreading fear and discriminatory behaviour among the general public. People with higher educational and socio-economic class showed more understanding and positive behavior toward COVID-19 patients, their caregivers and service providers. In future to develop a module of preventive aspects related to pandemics and to generate IEC materials for the awareness of right practices in the community to prevent discriminatory behaviors and negative attitudes among the general population.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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