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In Perspectives in public health

AIMS : The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that has had substantial impact across societies. An attempt to reduce infection and spread of the disease, for most nations, has led to a lockdown period, where people's movement has been restricted resulting in a consequential impact on employment, lifestyle behaviours and wellbeing. As such, this study aimed to explore adults' thoughts and behaviours in response to the outbreak and resulting lockdown measures.

METHODS : Using an online survey, 1126 adults responded to invitations to participate in the study. Participants, all aged 18 years or older, were recruited using social media, email distribution lists, website advertisement and word of mouth. Sentiment and personality features extracted from free-text responses using Artificial Intelligence methods were used to cluster participants.

RESULTS : Findings demonstrated that there was varied knowledge of the symptoms of COVID-19 and high concern about infection, severe illness and death, spread to others, the impact on the health service and on the economy. Higher concerns about infection, illness and death were reported by people identified at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Behavioural clusters, identified using Artificial Intelligence methods, differed significantly in sentiment and personality traits, as well as concerns about COVID-19, actions, lifestyle behaviours and wellbeing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

CONCLUSIONS : This time-sensitive study provides important insights into adults' perceptions and behaviours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown. The use of Artificial Intelligence has identified that there are two behavioural clusters that can predict people's responses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which goes beyond simple demographic groupings. Considering these insights may improve the effectiveness of communication, actions to reduce the direct and indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to support community recovery.

Flint S W, Piotrkowicz A, Watts K


Artificial Intelligence, COVID-19, attitudes, behaviours, lockdown