top of page

Reinterpretation of Health Information in the Context of an Emerging Infectious Disease: A Digital Focus Group Study

Published in JMR Human Factors, this study used digital focus groups to understand how individuals in Singapore interpreted health-related information during first wave of COVID-19 movement restrictions.

A qualitative study in Singapore was conducted to investigate how individuals perceive and interpret information that they receive on COVID-19. Data were generated through online focus group discussions conducted on the mobile messaging smartphone application, WhatsApp. From 28 March 2020 to 13 April 2020, eight WhatsApp-based focus groups (n=60) with participants stratified by age groups – namely 21-30 years, 31-40 years, 41-50 years, and 51 years and above – were held. Data were thematically analysed.

A total of four types of COVID-19 health information were generated from the thematic analysis, labelled as formal health information, informal health information, suspicious health information, and fake health information, respectively. How participants interpreted these categories of information depended largely on the perceived trustworthiness of the information sources as well as the perceived veracity of information. Both factors were instrumental in determining individuals’ perceptions, and their subsequent treatment and assimilation of COVID-19-related information.

This study found that both perceived trustworthiness of the information source and perceived veracity of information were instrumental concepts in determining one’s perception, and thus subsequent treatment and assimilation of such information for one’s knowledge of COVID-19 or the onward propagation to their social networks.

These findings have implications for how policymakers and health authorities communicate with the public and deal with fake health information in the context of COVID-19.

This study was co-authored by individuals from RFI (Suan Ee Ong) and NUS School of Public Health (Rayner Tan, Jane Lim, Pearlyn Neo).

Read the full study at

bottom of page