July 21, 2020 — People are more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic now than they were in the past 2 months, a WebMD reader poll finds.
The numbers come from the WebMD COVID Index, which reflects responses from 3,000-plus readers each week over the past 14 weeks. More than 60,000 readers have shared their thoughts to the same five questions, which measures weekly changes in concerns about personal risk, lifestyle impact, mental wellness, access to health services, and perception of well-being.
The index shows that readers’ level of concern about the pandemic overall went down in April and May but started rising again as cases across the country hit record-setting levels.
That concern is reflected across all age groups. In the past week, more than half of all readers said they felt somewhat or significantly more concerned about the pandemic than they did the week before. The highest number, 59%, was in the 25-to-34 age group, with readers under 25 being the second largest at 57%. Young people have been one of the groups driving the increase in cases.
At the same time, WebMD readers are expressing slightly less concern about getting COVID-19 themselves. While the index shows the concern overall has increased in the past 7 weeks, it dropped slightly this week.
“People may also feel that they have more control over how much they’re exposed,” says John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer for WebMD. “And as we learn more about what behaviors are the riskiest and what keeps people safe, it might give them more confidence as they go about their daily lives.”
The age group that expressed the most concern about getting COVID-19 was readers 65 and older. Age is considered a risk factor for more severe COVID cases. In that age group, 62% said they were somewhat or very concerned this week about getting COVID.
Some responses have remained nearly the same since April. For instance, a large number of WebMD readers say news coverage about COVID-19 has affected their stress levels, and that hasn’t changed much in the past 4 months. In addition, a large number of readers say COVID-19 has somewhat impacted their access to health care and ability to see a doctor, which also hasn’t changed much.
At the same time, other stressors have fluctuated. People felt more concerned about accessing basic food and household items at the beginning of the pandemic, a fear that increased in early May but dropped after that. Some readers are still struggling to access essential products and services.
“The index offers us a window into how readers are managing during this pandemic,” Whyte says. “The good news is that even as concern goes up and down, readers are keeping their stress levels about the same and feel they have the same access to health care. It’s important as we go forward that people take care of all aspects of their health while dealing with this pandemic.”
WebMD COVID Index, April 13 to July 15, 2020, 3,000+ readers each week.
The index is designed to quantify changes in levels of stress and concerns over time and is a composite measure over five individual categories: Personal, Risk, Lifestyle Impact, Mental Wellness, Access to Health Services, Local Response and Government, and Perception of Well-being compared to a previous week. It is set to 100 for the first week and reflects dynamics of changes over time compared to the first week. Values above 100 correspond to increase of concerns, and values below 100 correspond to reduction in concern levels. Theoretically, it may vary between 0 (total absence of concerns) to 200 (extreme concern over everything for everybody).
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