Public perceptions of psychiatric, justice-involved, and elderly populations during the COVID-19 pandemic
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The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had a significant global impact, with all countries facing the challenge of mitigating its spread. An unprecedented shortage of medical resources has raised concerns regarding allocation and prioritization of supplies, which may exacerbate social discrepancies for already vulnerable populations. As public opinion can impact healthcare policies, we aimed to characterize perceptions of psychiatric, forensic psychiatry, correctional, and elderly populations regarding COVID-19-related issues. This web-based study recruited participants (n = 583) from the general population in North America. The survey included perceptions of the pandemic, hypothetical scenarios on resource prioritization, and Likert scale questions. The majority of participants were cisgender female (72.7%), aged 31-74 years (80.0%), married (48.0%), retired (52.7%), resided in Canada (73.9%), had a college/university degree (50.9%) and had never worked in healthcare (66.21%). Most respondents reported not having a criminal history (95.88%), or a psychiatric disorder (78.73%). Perceptions of vulnerable populations were significantly different for resource allocation and prioritization (e.g., ventilator and vaccine resources, all p < 0.001). Healthcare workers and the elderly were commonly ranked the highest priority for resources, while forensic psychiatry and correctional populations were given the lowest priority. A high rate of disagreement was found for the more stigmatizing questions in the survey (all p < 0.0001). Our results suggest that perception from members of the general public in North America is aligned with current practices for resource allocation. However, individuals that already face social and health disparities may face additional opposition in decision-making for COVID-19 resources.
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