Risk perception and knowledge of COVID-19 in patients with celiac disease
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BACKGROUND: We recently demonstrated that the odds of contracting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with celiac disease (CeD) is similar to that of the general population. However, how patients with CeD perceive their COVID-19 risk may differ from their actual risk. AIM: To investigate risk perceptions of contracting COVID-19 in patients with CeD and determine the factors that may influence their perception. METHODS: We distributed a survey throughout 10 countries between March and June 2020 and collected data on demographics, diet, COVID-19 testing, and risk perceptions of COVID-19 in patients with CeD. Participants were recruited through various celiac associations, clinic visits, and social media. Risk perception was assessed by asking individuals whether they believe patients with CeD are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 when compared to the general population. Logistic regression was used to determine the influencing factors associated with COVID-19 risk perception, such as age, sex, adherence to a gluten-free diet (GFD), and comorbidities such as cardiac conditions, respiratory conditions, and diabetes. Data was presented as adjusted odds ratios (aORs). RESULTS: A total of 10737 participants with CeD completed the survey. From them, 6019 (56.1%) patients with CeD perceived they were at a higher risk or were unsure if they were at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to the non-CeD population. A greater proportion of patients with CeD perceived an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 when compared to infections in general due to their CeD (56.1% vs 26.7%, P < 0.0001). Consequently, 34.8% reported taking extra COVID-19 precautions as a result of their CeD. Members of celiac associations were less likely to perceive an increased risk of COVID-19 when compared to non-members (49.5% vs 57.4%, P < 0.0001). Older age (aOR: 0.99; 95%CI: 0.99 to 0.99, P < 0.001), male sex (aOR: 0.84; 95%CI: 0.76 to 0.93, P = 0.001), and strict adherence to a GFD (aOR: 0.89; 95%CI: 0.82 to 0.96, P = 0.007) were associated with a lower perception of COVID-19 risk and the presence of comorbidities was associated with a higher perception of COVID-19 risk (aOR: 1.38; 95%CI: 1.22 to 1.54, P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Overall, high levels of risk perceptions, such as those found in patients with CeD, may increase an individual's pandemic-related stress and contribute to negative mental health consequences. Therefore, it is encouraged that public health officials maintain consistent communication with the public and healthcare providers with the celiac community. Future studies specifically evaluating mental health in CeD could help determine the consequences of increased risk perceptions in this population.
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