Holding a stigmatizing attitude at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak: A cross-sectional survey

Louise E Smith, Henry WW Potts, Richard Amlot, Nicola Fear, Susan Michie*, James Rubin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: To identify the prevalence of a stigmatizing attitude towards people of Chinese origin at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK population and investigate factors associated with holding the stigmatizing attitude. Design: Online cross-sectional survey conducted 10–13 February 2020 (n = 2006, people aged 16 years or over and living in the UK). Methods: We asked participants to what extent they agreed it was best to avoid areas heavily populated by Chinese people because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Survey materials also asked about: worry, perceived risk, knowledge, information receipt, perception of government response to COVID-19, and personal characteristics. We ran binary logistic regressions to investigate associations between holding a stigmatizing attitude, personal characteristics, and psychological and contextual factors. Results: 26.1% people (95% CI 24.2–28.0%, n = 524/2006) agreed it was best to avoid areas heavily populated by Chinese people. Holding a stigmatizing attitude was associated with greater worry about COVID-19, greater perceived risk of COVID-19, and poorer knowledge about COVID-19. Conclusions: At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large percentage of the UK public endorsed avoiding areas in the UK heavily populated by people of Chinese origin. This attitude was associated with greater worry about, and perceived risk of, the COVID-19 outbreak as well as poorer knowledge about COVID-19. At the start of future novel infectious disease outbreaks, proactive communications from official sources should provide context and facts to reduce uncertainty and challenge stigmatizing attitudes, to minimize harms to affected communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Early online date4 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • discrimination
  • infectious disease outbreak
  • stigma
  • worry

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