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“Worried and Afraid” were the top feelings generated in the NRCP research project led by Dr. Maria Cecilia Gastardo-Conaco, NRCP member of the Social Sciences Division.

Dr. Conaco also revealed the other feelings, cognitions, behaviors of Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic at the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) first webinar on Kapakanan ng Tao sa Oras ng Pandemya (KTOP-COVID) on 23 June  2020 via Zoom.

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Dr. Maria Cecilia Gastardo-Conaco, NRCP member of the Social Sciences Division, presents her project results at the DOST-NRCP first webinar on Kapakanan ng Tao sa Oras ng Pandemya (KTOP-COVID) on 23 June  2020 via Zoom.

Supported by the NRCP, Dr. Conaco investigated people's feelings and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic across its timeline and through the various government actions including how they get their information (i.e., sources), how they feel, respond, process and react to the various information and their sources.

 

She revealed that the top 10 emotions of Filipinos across the timeline of the pandemic are being  angry, concerned, disappointed, worried, frustrated, hopeful, suspicious, anxious, sarcastic, and helpless, based on social media data. Dr. Conaco and her team were able to generate 748 emotion codes from comments made on news events uploaded to social media for the period from January 20 to April 30, using the first method, sentiment or qualitative analysis.

The second method used was a quantitative approach via an online survey which was participated by 288 Filipinos from April 20 to May 25, 2020. Those who participated in the online survey has the following demographic and living arrangement profiles: NCR – 14.2%, Luzon – 10.8%, Visayas – 68.1%, Mindanao – 6.6%; Age (M) = 30.5, range: 18-69; Male – 27%; Female – 73%; Self-rated socio - economic Class – 4% (lower class, steps 1 to 3 in 10-step SES ladder), 81% (middle class, steps 4 to 7 in the ladder), 15% (upper class, steps 8 to 10 in the ladder); At least HS education or better – 100%; Living arrangements: with family – 87%; with friends – 5%; and alone – 8%.

“Worried and Afraid” were the top feelings generated in the self-report of feelings across events on the pandemic timeline with its peak during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) declaration and slight decline during the extension of ECQ.

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Figure 1. Quantitative Method – Online Survey Results on Self-report of feelings across events on the pandemic timeline

Other feelings reported as rising during the pandemic included being Pessimistic, Helpless, Anxious, Stressed, and Depressed. 

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Figure 2. Quantitative Method – Online Survey Results on Personal assessment of one’s mental health of 288 respondents.

The personal assessment of mental health was also surveyed, with 70% of the respondents feeling that they are doing okay or better, with 7% of that number saying they were in tip top shape.  From the 30% who assessed themselves as less than okay, 4.5% admitted they needed professional help.

Respondent assessments of the COVID-19 threat revealed a fairly high overall perception of threat.  Majority of the respondents think that they should take all actions that they can do to avoid being infected by COVID-19 seconded by the feeling that their health has been threatened by COVID-19.

However, perceptions of personal risk seemed optimistic: on the average respondents felt they had a moderate chance of catching covid-19 (mean of 2.95) but would have a fair chance of survival (mean of 3.54).  This despite the fact that they had a high overall perception of threat and middling confidence in the Philippine medical system (mean 2.7 out of a high score of 5).

Worry and concern for various groups were high, first for the elderly, followed by family and last for young people.

The top three preventive behaviors of Filipinos  are (1) wearing of facemask when going out of the house; (2) staying home and to  go out only to buy food and other necessities; (3) practicing physical/social distancing.

The attitudes towards being quarantined are relatively positive as everyone agrees to being quarantined since COVID-19 is a disease in which people who are exposed need to be quarantined. Hence, if they had COVID-19, were exposed to COVID-19, or even if healthy and knowing no one with COVID-19 among their contacts, they were still agreeable to being quarantined.

The respondents also find it difficult working or studying from home and their income is greatly affected by missing work days. Study finds, too, that they have difficulties in getting regular medical care and prescription, and staying in the house for more than two weeks makes them restless.

The main source of information of the respondents came from the internet, friends, and family and the newspaper was the least source of information.  However, when asked to rate the various sources for satisfactoriness in terms amount of information provided and usefulness, newspapers were ranked highest, followed by radio and television. And though the internet and friends might be the first sources to go to for information, traditional sources were nevertheless seen as having more comprehensive and more useful information.

Respondents were also asked to rate their level of trust for various groups and individuals who have been active during the pandemic: the president, various national government spokespersons, and local government officials, including barangay officials.  The local government officials were ranked highest in terms of trust, followed by President Duterte and the various national government spokespersons. Among the national government spokespersons, only DOH USec Vergiere had a slightly higher mean trust rating than the president.  In an open-ended listing of perceived effective government officials, local government officials were the salient names for our respondents.  Only President Duterte and VP Robredo were included in this list composed of all local government officials across the country.

Study shows that people received the highest amount of information about the government's response and pronouncements related to the pandemic from the national government, followed by medical experts, and local government. However, in terms of information quality and reliability, medical experts topped the ratings as most sufficient and reliable sources whereas  the national government was seen as least sufficient and reliable.

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Click the link to see full image: Quantitative Method – Online Survey Results on Assessment about the government’s response and pronouncements related to the pandemic.

Figure 3-4: Quantitative Method – Online Survey Results on Assessment about the government’s response and pronouncements related to the pandemic.

Various government responses were also rated in terms of perceived quality, with 1 as the lowest and 5 as the highest score, and were assessed to be less than satisfactory by the respondents: enforcing quarantine (2.8); implementing physical distancing (2.6); contact tracing (2.3); testing (2.3); provisions and aid (2.3); providing PPEs (2.4); and ensuring adequate medical attention for COVID-19 patients (2.6).

Using a Likert Scale to see how respondents were coping with the current situation, the team found 5 top coping mechanisms in use: acceptance (M=4.06, SD=0.87), self-distraction (M=3.99,SD=1.06), positive reframing (M=3.87, SD=1.00), emotional support (M= 3.83, SD=1.05), and planning (M= 3.69, SD=0.94).

Dr. Conaco and team generated  policy advice and recommendations for the use of government and mental health professionals and institutions.

First recommendation based on the study is for government (and government spokespersons) to  consult / collaborate with the medical experts in order to provide sufficient, clear and reliable information. Second, government service provision should be improved in the areas  related to testing, contact tracing, quarantine regulation enforcement, and aid provision.   It was evident that there is a need for an easily accessible set of FAQs on these various areas.  More particularly,  an integrated COVID information/ health services primer must be developed, be made available both online and in print, and to be disseminated widely through various media and the local political unit (barangay). Third, the local government units, as they are closer to and seen as more trustworthy by their constituents, should be available / accessible to provide clear information and guidelines for accessing fair and sufficient services. Another recommendation is for national government to coordinate better information provision and service delivery with the local government units, down to the barangay level.

Policy recommendations for mental health included:  information on resources that can be accessed and how to access these resources should be provided to the public..  Moreover, natural support groups (e.g., families and friends) should be provided more information on how to help each other and how to identify and assist group members who might need professional help. Also, public information on self-care should be made more available. Virtual exercise, meditation, hobby groups, learning new skills are welcome developments to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on mental health.  Aside from these, more information should be provided with regard to what is fake news and what is real news or information (or how to discern fake from true) to minimize the onslaught of negative emotions like panic, worry, anxiety, and anger. Lastly, social connectivity, despite physical distancing, should be encouraged.

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DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña happily gives his message to all zoom guests and participants.

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña graced the first webinar encouraging researchers to do a study highlighting PEOPLE helping other PEOPLE, as he dubbed it as a source of inspiration. 

He is hopeful that the recommendations will be presented to the policy makers and that NRCP, being been created as an advisory body to government on national issues, will continue to give and provide solutions on social issues. He said that social aspects are most relevant from top to bottom and from all sectors of the society. These are called social technologies or social solutions that are likewise as important as the other industrial services and technologies that the DOST is presenting to the people.

This first webinar series of KTOP-COVID was led by the DOST-NRCP Executive Director Marieta Bañez Sumagasay.

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Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagasay, NRCP Executive Director officially opens the DOST-NRCP KTOP-COVID webinar series on June 23, 2020.

 

The other four DOST-NRCP COVID-19 related projects are Content Analysis of Government Policies and Issuances Regarding the 2020 Pandemic by Dr. Laufred I. Hernandez, Gender-Specific Insights Based on COVID-19 Epidemiological and Socio-Economic Data by Dr. Jomar F. Rabajante, Scoping on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) in the Philippines in the time of COVID 19 Pandemic by Dr. Elizabeth P. De Castro, and Defining a Gender-responsive Work-from-Home (WFH) Scheme in a Post-ECQ Scenario by Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, DOST-NRCP Executive Director.