By Georgina Fairbrother
A recent study explored panic responses to COVID-19 in the Philippines. COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and has caused mass lockdowns and closures across the globe. An angle relatively unexplored amidst this global pandemic is the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. The survey conducted was a mixed-method study that gathered qualitative and quantitative data in order to better explore the different dimensions of panic responses.
The survey was conducted through convenience sampling by online forms due to government-mandated limitations of social contact and urgency. The online survey ran for three days and gathered 538 responses. The average age of a survey participant was 23.82, with participants ranging in ages from 13-67. 47% of those who completed the survey were working, 45.4% were students and 7.6% were not working. Of those who completed the survey, 1.3% had witnessed direct exposure to a COVID-19 patient, while 26% had witnessed exposure within their community, and 72.7% had not been exposed.
For purposes of the survey, the Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI) Short Week was adapted in order to test illness anxiety on COVID-19 amongst Filipinos. The HAI had four main sections used in this survey: 1) Symptoms of health anxiety (hypochondriasis), 2) Attitudes towards how awful it would be to develop COVID-19, 3) Avoidance, and 4) Reassurance. Responses to questions answered within these areas were scored on a 0-3 basis, compromising the quantitative portion of the study. To complete the qualitative section of the survey three open-ended questions were used. The open-ended questions used for qualitative purposes in this survey were:
“1. What came to your mind when you knew the existence of COVID-19?
2. How do you feel when you know the existence of COVID-19?
3. What actions have you done with the knowledge of existence of COVID-19?”
Upon completion of the survey, researchers were able to analyze data in regard to five different areas. First, researchers discovered that it was very evident that respondents were experiencing moderate illness anxiety in all four aspects listed by HAI. Secondly, by comparing locations, researchers also discovered that respondents residing in Metro Manilla exhibited less avoidance behavior compared to respondents residing outside Metro Manilla. While there is no definitive reason for this result, speculation looms around education, awareness, and proximity to COVID-19 cases. Thirdly, researchers looked at occupation, but determined illness anxiety was present regardless of occupation. Fourthly, researchers determined that respondents who had been in direct contact with those having COVID-19 were more likely to exhibit symptoms of hypochondriasis compared to respondents who had not witnessed or contacted anyone with COVID-19.
The fifth area that researchers explored upon completion of this survey was that of feeling, thinking, and behavior in response to COVID-19. Nineteen different themes were ranked by 100 experts based on their positivity and negativity. The themes included items such as the following: Health Consciousness, Optimism, Cautiousness, Protection, Compliance, Composure, Information Dissemination, Worry on self/family/others, Relating to Past Pandemics, Anxiety, Government Blaming, Shock, Transmission of Virus, Fear, Sadness, Paranoia, Nihilism, Annihilation, and Indifference. Upon completion of the survey, the highest-scoring themes amongst respondents included Fear, Social Distancing, Health Consciousness, and Information Dissemination. Meanwhile, the lowest-scoring themes included Indifference and Nihilism.
Overall, COVID-19 has become a global pandemic that is continuing to move and spread across the world. In the aftermath of this pandemic, it will be interesting to compare the panic responses of different countries. The Philippines approaches this study from a more socially collectivist perspective. With that being said, it was reported that the Philippines leaned towards more individualistic tendencies in times of fear. Another area to look deeper into would include how panic responses change from the initial shock of COVID-19 to lockdown phases to re-emergence phases.
Georgina Fairbrother is a current master’s student in the Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership program at Wheaton College. Prior to her master’s degree, she received a bachelor’s degree in Global Security and Intelligence studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Nicomedes, C. J., & Avila, R. (2020). An Analysis on the Panic of Filipinos During COVID-19 Pandemic in the Philippines. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.17355.54565