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The impact of communications about swine flu (influenza A H1N1v) on public responses to the outbreak: results from 36 national telephone surveys in the UK

Rubin, G.J.; Potts, H.W.W.; Michie, S.; (2010) The impact of communications about swine flu (influenza A H1N1v) on public responses to the outbreak: results from 36 national telephone surveys in the UK. Health Technology Assessment , 14 (34) pp. 183-266. 10.3310/hta14340-03. Green open access

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Abstract

Objectives: To assess the association between levels of worry about the possibility of catching swine flu and the volume of media reporting about it; the role of psychological factors in predicting likely uptake of the swine flu vaccine; and the role of media coverage and advertising in predicting other swine flu-related behaviours. Design: Data from a series of random-digit-dial telephone surveys were analysed. A time series analysis tested the association between levels of worry and the volume of media reporting on the start day of each survey. Cross-sectional regression analyses assessed the relationships between likely vaccine uptake or behaviour and predictor variables.Setting: Thirty-six surveys were run at, on average, weekly intervals across the UK between 1 May 2009 and 10 January 2010. Five surveys (run between 14 August and 13 September) were used to assess likely vaccine uptake. Five surveys (1–17 May) provided data relating to other behaviours.Participants: Between 1047 and 1173 people aged 16 years or over took part in each survey: 5175 participants provided data about their likely uptake of the swine flu vaccine; 5419 participants provided data relating to other behaviours.Main outcome measures: All participants were asked to state how worried they were about the possibility of personally catching swine flu. Subsets were asked how likely they were to take up a swine flu vaccination if offered it and whether they had recently carried tissues with them, bought sanitising hand gel, avoided using public transport or had been to see a general practitioner, visited a hospital or called NHS Direct for a flu-related reason. Results: The percentage of ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ worried participants fluctuated between 9.6% and 32.9%. This figure was associated with the volume of media reporting, even after adjusting for the changing severity of the outbreak [χ2(1) = 6.6, p = 0.010, coefficient for log-transformed data = 2.6]. However, this effect only occurred during the UK’s first summer wave of swine flu. In total, 56.1% of respondents were very or fairly likely to accept the swine flu vaccine. The strongest predictors were being very worried about the possibility of oneself [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 4.7, 95% CI 3.2 to 7.0] or one’s child (aOR 8.0, 4.6 to 13.9) catching swine flu. Overall, 33.1% of participants reporting carrying tissues with them, 9.5% had bought sanitising gel, 2.0% had avoided public transport and 1.6% had sought medical advice. Exposure to media coverage or advertising about swine flu increased tissue carrying or buying of sanitising hand gel, and reduced avoidance of public transport or consultation with health services during early May 2009. Path analyses showed that media coverage and advertising had these differential effects because they raised the perceived efficacy of hygiene behaviours but decreased the perceived efficacy of avoidance behaviours. Conclusions: During the swine flu outbreak, uptake rates for protective behaviours and likely acceptance rates for vaccination were low. One reason for this was the low level of public worry about the possibility of catching swine flu. When levels of worry are generally low, acting to increase the volume of mass media and advertising coverage is likely to increase the perceived efficacy of recommended behaviours, which, in turn, is li

Type:Article
Title:The impact of communications about swine flu (influenza A H1N1v) on public responses to the outbreak: results from 36 national telephone surveys in the UK
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI:10.3310/hta14340-03
Publisher version:http://www.hta.ac.uk/project/2224.asp
Language:English
Additional information:Reproduced with permission of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme. © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2010. HTA reports may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Violations should be reported to hta@hta.ac.uk. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to NETSCC, Health Technology Assessment, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, SO16 7NS, UK. This is an accepted work that has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the Health Technology Assessment journal, but has yet to undergo proof correction. See http://www.hta.ac.uk for details. Please cite this article 'Postprint:10.33.10/hta14340-03'
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of) > Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care > CHIME

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