Associations of mental health and personal preventive measure compliance with exposure to COVID-19 information during work resumption following the COVID-19 outbreak in China: Cross-sectional survey study

Yihang Pan, Meiqi Xin, Changhua Zhang, Willa Dong, Yuan Fang, Wenhui Wu, Mingzhe Li, Jun Pang, Zilong Zheng, Zixin Wang, Jinqiu Yuan, Yulong He

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Risk and crisis communication plays an essential role in public health emergency responses. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered spontaneous and intensive media attention, which has affected people’s adoption of personal preventive measures and their mental health. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between exposure to COVID-19–specific information and mental health (depression and sleep quality) and self-reported compliance with personal preventive measures (face mask wearing and hand sanitizing). We also tested whether these associations were moderated by thoughtful consideration of the veracity of the information to which people were exposed. Methods: A cross-sectional, closed web-based survey was conducted among a sample of 3035 factory workers at the beginning of work resumption following the COVID-19 outbreak in Shenzhen, China. A stratified two-stage cluster sampling design was used for recruitment. Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were used for the analyses. Results: The prevalence of probable moderate-to-severe depression was 170/3035 (5.6%), while that of good or excellent sleep quality was 2110/3035 (69.5%). The prevalence of self-reported consistent face mask wearing in public places was 2903/3035 (95.7%), while that of sanitizing hands every time after returning from public spaces or touching public installations was 2151/3035 (70.9%). Of the 3035 respondents, 1013 to 1638 (33.3% to 54.0%) reported >1 hour of daily exposure to COVID-19–specific information through web-based media and television. After controlling for significant background variables, higher information exposure via television and via newspapers and magazines was associated with better sleep quality and higher compliance with hand sanitizing. Higher exposure via unofficial web-based media was associated with higher compliance with hand sanitizing but was also associated with higher depressive symptoms. In contrast, higher exposure through face-to-face communication was associated with higher depressive symptoms, worse sleep quality, and lower compliance with hand sanitizing. Exposure to information about positive outcomes for patients with COVID-19, development of vaccines and effective treatments, and heroic stories about frontline health care workers were associated with both better mental health and higher compliance with preventive measures. Higher overall information exposure was associated with higher depressive symptoms among participants who were less likely to carefully consider the veracity of the information to which they were exposed; it was also associated with better sleep quality among people who reported more thoughtful consideration of information veracity. Conclusions: This study provides empirical evidence of how the amount, sources, and contents of information to which people were exposed influenced their mental health and compliance with personal preventive measures at the initial phase of work resumption in China. Thoughtful consideration of information quality was found to play an important moderating role. Our findings may inform strategic risk communication by government and public health authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22596
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Communication
  • COVID-19
  • Cross-sectional
  • Information exposure
  • Mental health
  • Personal preventive measures
  • Prevention
  • Public health
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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