Loneliness and Social Support Experienced by COVID-19 Patients Attending a Telemedicine Centre of a Tertiary Care Hospital in Kolkata: A Cross-sectional Study
Dr. Ratul Kumar Bysack,
14/3B, Sovaram Bysack Street, Kolkata-700007, West Bengal, India.
Introduction: Telemedicine acted as one of the biggest medium in treating Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) patients during the second wave of the still ongoing pandemic. Although the symptoms were taken care of and treated through teleconsultation, the loneliness and social support system of these patients went largely unrecognised. The morbidity pattern, effect of self-isolation and quarantine, uncertainties in social support were major contributors to loneliness among patients suffering from COVID-19.
Aim: To estimate the proportion of loneliness and level of social support experienced by COVID-19 patients seeking advice from a telemedicine centre of Kolkata and to find out their socio-clinical profile and the associated relationship.
Materials and Methods: An observational study with cross-sectional design was conducted on 403 COVID-19 patients, who had taken advice from the telemedicine centre of Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGME and R), Kolkata for a period of 12 weeks (May-July 2021). Loneliness was assessed by the 11-item De Jong Gierveld Loneliness scale, whereas social support was assessed using 12-item Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support scale through telephonic interview. Data were tabulated in the Microsoft Office Excel 2019 (Microsoft Corp, Redmond, WA, USA) and the analysis was performed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (IBM, New York City, USA) version 25.0.
Results: Out of 403, more than half of the study population, 194 (48.2%) belonged to 18-35 years of age. Of the total, 235 (58.3%) were males, 319 (79.2%) were currently married and 300 (74.4%) were Hindus. About 142 (35.2%) respondents had experienced severe loneliness, while 297 (73.7%) had experienced high social support. There was a significant negative correlation found between loneliness and social support (r=-0.495, p-value <0.01). It was found that being male, belonging to nuclear family, education upto higher secondary level, being addicted, loneliness due to physical distancing, and those who had socialised frequently had higher odds of loneliness, whereas unemployed, unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled occupation, having one chronic disease had lower odds of social support.
Conclusion: About 338 (84%) patients had experienced loneliness which was strikingly high. This shows a deeper aspect into the actual picture of how COVID-19 impacts mental health of those who are affected. Future interventions are needed to address loneliness and develop social support system along with addressing healthcare needs of COVID-19 patients.