Information seeking behavior and COVID-19 pandemic: A snapshot of young, middle aged and senior individuals in Greece
Int J Med Inform
BACKGROUND: The plethora of information in the contemporary digital age is enormous and beyond the capability of the average person to process all the information received. During the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, huge amount of information is increasingly available in digital information sources and overwhelms the average person. The purpose of this research was to investigate public's information seeking behavior on COVID-19 in Greece. METHOD: The study was conducted through a web-based survey, facilitated by the use of questionnaire posted on the Google Forms platform. The questionnaire consisted of closed-ended, 7-point Likert scale questions and multiple choice questions and was distributed to all over Greek Regions to almost 3.000 recipients, during the implementation of restrictive measures against the COVID-19 outbreak in Spring 2020. The data collected were subjected to a descriptive statistical analysis. The median was used to present the results. In order to perform analysis between genders, as well as age groups, the non-parametric criteria Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis were applied to determine the existence of differences in participants' beliefs. RESULTS: Responses by 776 individuals were obtained. Individuals dedicated up to 2 h per day to be informed on COVID-19. Television, electronic press and news websites were reported by the participants as more reliable than social media, in obtaining information on COVID-19. Respondents paid attention to official sources of information (Ministry of Health, Civil Protection etc.). Family and friends played an additional role in the participants' information on COVID-19, while the personal doctor, other health workers and pharmacists did not appear to be most preferred sources of information on COVID-19. Participants' most common information seeking strategy in digital environment was keyword searching. Unreliable information, fake news and information overload were the most common difficulties that the participants encountered seeking information on COVID-19. The respondents' views seemed to differ significantly among age groups. The older the participants, the more often they were informed by television (p < 0.001) and the less often by the internet (p < 0.001). Females appear to use more frequently internet (p < 0.001) and social media (p = 0.001) out of habit and visit more often the Ministry of Health (p < 0.001) and the Civil Protection (p=0.005) websites, compared to males. Most of the participants seemed to worry about the fake news phenomenon and agreed that fake news on COVID-19 is being spread in the media and especially social networks. CONCLUSION: The study revealed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece, participants obtained information about the disease mainly by television, electronic press and news websites. On the contrary, the limited use of social media demonstrates the participants awareness of the spread of fake news on social media. This observed information seeking behavior might has contributed to individuals' acceptance of the necessary behavioral changes that had led to the Greek success story in preventing spread of the disease.