The Influence of COVID-19 Information Sources on the Attitudes and Practices Toward COVID-19 Among the General Public of Saudi Arabia: Cross-sectional Online Survey Study

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Subject Area(s)

Adolescent; Adult; COVID-19 (epidemiology, prevention & control, psychology); Cross-Sectional Studies; Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Humans; Information Dissemination (methods); Information Seeking Behavior; Male; Middle Aged; Pandemics; Saudi Arabia (epidemiology); Social Media (statistics & numerical data); Socioeconomic Factors; Surveys and Questionnaires; Young Adult


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in panic among the general public, leading many people to seek out information related to COVID-19 through various sources, including social media and traditional media. Identifying public preferences for obtaining such information may help health authorities to effectively plan successful health preventive and educational intervention strategies. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the impact of the types of sources used for obtaining COVID-19 information on the attitudes and practices of the general public in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, and to identify the socioeconomic and demographic factors associated with the use of different sources of information. METHODS: This study used data from a cross-sectional online survey conducted on residents of Saudi Arabia from March 20 to 24, 2020. Data were analyzed using descriptive, bivariate, and multivariable logistic regression analyses. Bivariate analysis of categorical variables was performed to determine the associations between information sources and socioeconomic and demographic factors. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were employed to examine whether socioeconomic and demographic variables were associated with the source of information used to obtain information about COVID-19. Moreover, univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine how sources of information influence attitudes and practices of adhering to preventive measures. RESULTS: In this analysis of cross-sectional survey data, 3358 participants were included. Most participants reported using social media, followed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as their primary source of information. Seeking information via social media was significantly associated with lower odds of having an optimistic attitude (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.845, 95% CI 0.733-0.974; P=.02) and adhering to preventive measures (aOR 0.725, 95% CI 0.630-0.835; P<.001) compared to other sources of information. Participants who obtained their COVID-19 information via the MOH had greater odds of having an optimistic attitude (aOR 1.437, 95% CI 1.234-1.673; P<.001) and adhering to preventive measures (aOR 1.393, 95% CI 1.201-1.615; P<.001) than those who obtained information via other sources. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that different sources of information influence attitudes and preventive actions differently within a pandemic crisis context. Health authorities in Saudi Arabia should pay attention to the use of appropriate social media channels and sources to allow for more effective dissemination of critical information to the public.

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