As the global pandemic continues and its impact increasingly disrupts daily life in the U.S., a new ongoing survey launched this week reveals specific concerns about the novel coronavirus among people living with chronic illnesses, who feel these conditions make them more susceptible to the virus (73%) and are beginning to turn to each other (58%) and their doctors (36%) for more information. Epidemiologists have identified people with serious chronic medical conditions as one of the two key demographic groups (along with older adults) that are at high risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 .
Health Perspectives Group fielded the first of a series of ongoing surveys this week among 1,300 members of its Health Stories Project social sharing community who are living with or caring for chronic conditions, tracking their awareness of and concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19, the illness caused by the recently identified novel coronavirus. Survey participants span age groups (18-92), genders, race/ethnicities, education level, location (urban, suburban, rural) and 17 chronic disease areas. The survey will be re-administered to the same respondents, who have agreed to participate, every two days over the next two weeks to track changes in their concerns, disease status and access to information in real time.
In addition to the survey, Health Perspectives Group will host a series of webinars in the coming weeks featuring a health professional and patients living with specific chronic conditions, starting with autoimmune diseases on Tuesday, March 17 at 1:30 pm ET, followed by respiratory, oncology and cardiovascular, to be scheduled. For more information, visit http://hpgroupllc.
Key Initial Findings
In the first week of significant impact of the pandemic in the U.S., people living with chronic health conditions are alert and concerned about both broad and personal impacts of novel coronavirus/COVID-19. Among respondents, 33% watch, read or listen to the news daily, 35% several times a day and 20% almost constantly, across a wide range of sources, including TV (75%), news websites (64%), news apps (53%) and social media (75%).
When considering general impact of the pandemic, 56% of respondents think there will be a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 this year (19% say sometime in the future and 12% are not sure), and 89% of respondents expressed concern that the outbreak will hurt the economy.
As information about and understanding of the virus evolves and knowledge about risks for their specific diseases is not yet widely available, patients are seeking information and support from each other: 44% of respondents have talked to other people with their condition to address their own concerns, and 44% helped calm other people with their condition.
One statistic that has the potential for significant impact: already at this early stage, 36% of patients have discussed this coronavirus with their healthcare providers. As burdens on doctors and the healthcare system continue to grow, this number is a call to action for patient groups and other organizations with public platforms to gather current facts and share them with patients in their disease areas quickly and effectively.
“As we face this unprecedented global medical event, we are committed to sharing the voices of patients living with chronic diseases through the ongoing survey of Health Stories Project members who have raised a hand to share their experiences and concerns, highlighting their needs that are not being addressed effectively,” said Cheryl Lubbert, President and CEO of Health Perspectives Group, parent company of Health Stories Project. “As we repeat the survey over the next days and weeks, we will analyze and share the result across categories and diseases as quickly as possible to provide a real-time snapshot of how the COVID-19 situation is evolving, and hopefully resolving, for these patients.”
Topics addressed in the ongoing survey include:
- Impact of their current condition
- Frequency of news monitoring and sources
- Awareness and concern about novel coronavirus/COVID-19
- Anticipated impact of COVID-19 on economy and personal health and economic situation
- How novel coronavirus/COVID-19 is impacting work and daily life
- Sources for disease-specific information
When viewed through the lens of different age groups and diseases, the findings from the first survey offer some interesting and unexpected contrasts.
Findings By Age Group
The age groups in the survey are classified as the Silent Generation (age 75-92), Baby Boomers (56-74), Gen X (40-55), Millennials (24-39) and Gen Z (18-23). When considering perceived impact on the economy and their own health, several age differences were apparent. Overall, 89% of respondents expressed that they were concerned (somewhat, very or extremely) that the outbreak will hurt the economy, split evenly with about 30% of respondents in each sub-category of concern, with one exception: Gen Z (18-23) respondents are the most optimistic, with 13% not very concerned, 36% somewhat concerned and only 14% extremely concerned that the outbreak will hurt the economy.
Gen Z (18-23) respondents had a more positive outlook on their own potential to contract COVID-19. While overall 73% of respondents feel their condition makes them more susceptible to the novel coronavirus, only 47% of Gen Z respondents do, with 53% responding that they do not feel they are more susceptible.
Findings By Disease
Survey respondents, on the whole, are taking precautions in their daily lives because of COVID-19. However, some people with specific conditions are being more proactive than others, while those with immune and respiratory conditions (logical risk for infection) and cardiovascular disease (which has been mentioned in early reports from other countries as a specific risk factor) are not reporting heightened preventive measures that might be expected: [see chart in image with this release]
One Particular Bright Spot
Finally, as we prepare for the next administration of this survey in a few days, public health officials and media commentators will be pleased to know that universally, across all categories, 83% of survey respondents said they were washing their hands more frequently in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be encouraging to see this number rise even higher in future results.