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JMIR Public Health Surveill ; 7(9): e30460, 2021 09 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2141344


BACKGROUND: The UK National Health Service (NHS) classified 2.2 million people as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) during the first wave of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, advising them to "shield" (to not leave home for any reason). OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to measure the determinants of shielding behavior and associations with well-being in a large NHS patient population for informing future health policy. METHODS: Patients contributing to an ongoing longitudinal participatory epidemiology study (Longitudinal Effects on Wellbeing of the COVID-19 Pandemic [LoC-19], n=42,924) received weekly email invitations to complete questionnaires (17-week shielding period starting April 9, 2020) within their NHS personal electronic health record. Question items focused on well-being. Participants were stratified into four groups by self-reported CEV status (qualifying condition) and adoption of shielding behavior (baselined at week 1 or 2). The distribution of CEV criteria was reported alongside situational variables and univariable and multivariable logistic regression. Longitudinal trends in physical and mental well-being were displayed graphically. Free-text responses reporting variables impacting well-being were semiquantified using natural language processing. In the lead up to a second national lockdown (October 23, 2020), a follow-up questionnaire evaluated subjective concern if further shielding was advised. RESULTS: The study included 7240 participants. In the CEV group (n=2391), 1133 (47.3%) assumed shielding behavior at baseline, compared with 633 (13.0%) in the non-CEV group (n=4849). CEV participants who shielded were more likely to be Asian (odds ratio [OR] 2.02, 95% CI 1.49-2.76), female (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.05-1.45), older (OR per year increase 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02), living in a home with an outdoor space (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.06-1.70) or three to four other inhabitants (three: OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.15-1.94; four: OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.10-2.01), or solid organ transplant recipients (OR 2.85, 95% CI 2.18-3.77), or have severe chronic lung disease (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.30-2.04). Receipt of a government letter advising shielding was reported in 1115 (46.6%) CEV participants and 180 (3.7%) non-CEV participants, and was associated with adopting shielding behavior (OR 3.34, 95% CI 2.82-3.95 and OR 2.88, 95% CI 2.04-3.99, respectively). In CEV participants, shielding at baseline was associated with a lower rating of mental well-being and physical well-being. Similar results were found for non-CEV participants. Concern for well-being if future shielding was required was most prevalent among CEV participants who had originally shielded. CONCLUSIONS: Future health policy must balance the potential protection from COVID-19 against our findings that shielding negatively impacted well-being and was adopted in many in whom it was not indicated and variably in whom it was indicated. This therefore also requires clearer public health messaging and support for well-being if shielding is to be advised in future pandemic scenarios.

COVID-19/prevention & control , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Mental Health/trends , Public Health/trends , Quarantine/psychology , Adult , Female , Health Policy , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , Male , Mental Health/legislation & jurisprudence , Middle Aged , Public Health/legislation & jurisprudence , SARS-CoV-2 , State Medicine , Surveys and Questionnaires , United Kingdom