Currently submitted to: Journal of Medical Internet Research
Date Submitted: May 20, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: May 20, 2020 - Jul 15, 2020
(currently open for review)
Information Regarding COVID-19 on the Internet: A Cross-sectional Study of Concerns
The Internet is one of the main sources of information about COVID-19. However, scant research has addressed the public’s disease-related concerns nor the relationships between concerns, knowledge, and behavior related to COVID-19 prevention.
Our objectives were to determine Chinese netizens’ concerns related to COVID-19 and its relationship with Internet information; and to elucidate the association between individuals’ concerns, knowledge, and behavior related to COVID-19.
In this study, the questionnaire was designed to investigate Chinese netizens’ concerns, knowledge, and behavior related to COVID-19 during the rapid rise period of the outbreak. An online sample of Chinese residents was successfully recruited via Dingxiangyisheng WeChat. The questionnaire consisted of 15 closed-ended questions.
In total, 10,304 respondents were surveyed on the Internet (response rate = 1.75%, 10,304/590,000). Nearly all (95.30%) participants were concerned about “confirmed cases” and 87.70% received information about the outbreak through social media websites. There were significant differences in participants’ concerns by sex (P = .018), age (P < .001), educational attainment (P < .007), and occupation (P < .001). For all knowledge questions, including “incubation period (P < .001),” “transmission route (P = .001),” “symptoms (P < .001),” and “personal preventive knowledge (P < .001)”, participants who had higher concerns about COVID-19 were significantly more likely to answer questions correctly than were those who had less concerns. Surprisingly, people who were less concerned were more likely to avoid public places and public transportation than those who were more concerned.
This study elucidated the concerns, information sources, and preventive behaviors of Chinese netizens related to the COVID-19 pandemic. People who were more concerned were more likely to obtain knowledge and take preventive measures than were their less concerned counterparts.
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