Changing of Health Anxiety in Disadvantaged Population During the Pandemic
Keywords:pandemic, health anxiety, subjective health status, mental well-being
AbstractWe have lived our lives in the spirit of the COVID-19 pandemic in the latest period, which demanded serious sacrifices in Hungary as well. By the spread of the epidemic, more and more and younger people fought with the disease, several people worried about their relatives’ and friends’ health. The period of the pandemic and the central provisions aiming at stopping the spread of the epidemic affected people in several different ways, but it has no doubt that confinement, restrictions and the lack of interactions had mental effects on everyone. Over the fear from becoming infected, the reorganization of the healthcare system also influenced people’s mental status, and increased their anxiety and health anxiety, since the care of pre-existing chronic diseases and the diagnostics and therapy of new acute diseases were performed based on a new unknown protocol. Our research examined the population’s health anxiety in a highly disadvantaged region of Hungary along more dimensions in the second and third wave of the pandemic. Our research goal was to get to know the level of health anxiety according to different settlement types, genders, ages and occupations, and to compare its change with the measured data of the option and willingness for vaccination. Our special goal was the assessment of the healthcare workers’ mental status and monitoring of its changes. For the on-line survey research, we used standard questionnaires also validated in Hungarian language: the Short Health Anxiety Inventory - Hungarian version (SHAI-H) (Köteles at al, 2011), the 5-item WHO Well-being Index (Susánszky et al, 2006) and the Adult Hope Scale - Hungarian version (AHS-H) (Martos et al, 2014). During data recording, we queried labour market status, relationship status and the size of the residential settlement besides the socio-demographic data (gender, age, education). There was one question about the respondent’s evaluation regarding his/her own health status and another about religiousness. There were further questions about COVID-19 infection or its suspicion in terms of the person’s own and immediate environment, the severity of the perceived symptoms and the form of the necessary health care. Data recording of this current cross-sectional research was performed in the end of November 2020 and in the beginning of December 2020 at first, and then in March 2021, the questionnaire was filled by 528 persons in the second wave and 515 persons in the third wave. Although the survey, the cohort study performed by on-line sampling is not representative, due to the size of the sample, data provide an informative picture about the mental status of the population of the North-eastern region of Hungary and its changes during the second and third wave of the pandemic. Results: The average age of the 528 persons involved in the first phase of the research was 39.4±13.1 years, the willingness to respond was similar in the second phase (N=515), and there was a small decrease in the average age (x=34.7±13.05 years). At the time of the first data recording, 16.7% of the respondents had undergone the COVID-19 infection, while this number was 24.1% in the second phase. At first, most of the people having been infected (50.4%) had mild symptoms, while 47.8% survived the disease with medium strength symptoms. When we asked about the wider environment, they reported essentially more infections: the infection could have been detected in all the respondents’ households. 22.7% of those living in one household had at least one member and 77.3% had more than one infected family members. The severity of the course of the infection was different: 32% judged it very mild, 60.9% said it was medium, 3.1% of them needed hospitalization, and the course of the infection was fatal in the environment of 3.5% of the respondents. In the second phase of the research, most of the people having been infected (45.1%) had mild symptoms, while 52.6% suffered from medium strength symptoms. 37% of those living in one household had at least one member and 63% had more than one infected family members. The severity of the course of the infection was different: 26.5% judged it very mild, 58% said it was medium, 9% of them needed hospitalization, and the course of the infection was fatal in the environment of 4.5% of the respondents. Overall, the pandemic influences the population’s mental status and health anxiety in an obviously negative way in the examined region, it shows correlation with subjective health status, and we do not know its long-term effects at this time.
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