Background COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the world. Women may be especially vulnerable to depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic. Aims This study attempted to assess how gender affects risk perceptions, anxiety levels and behavioural responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan, to recommend gender-responsive health policies. Methods A cross-sectional online survey was conducted. Participants were asked to complete a sociodemographic data form, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and questions on their risk perceptions, preventive behaviour and information exposure. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to assess the effects of factors such as age, gender and household income on anxiety levels. Results Of the 1391 respondents, 478 were women and 913 were men. Women considered their chances of survival to be relatively lower than men (59% v. 73%). They were also more anxious (62% v. 50%) and more likely to adopt precautionary behaviour, such as avoiding going to the hospital (78% v. 71%), not going to work (72% v. 57%) and using disinfectants (93% v. 86%). Men were more likely to trust friends, family and social media as reliable sources of COVID-19 information, whereas women were more likely to trust doctors. Conclusions Women experience a disproportionate burden of the psychological and social impact of the pandemic compared with men. Involving doctors in healthcare communication targeting women might prove effective. Social media and radio programmes may be effective in disseminating COVID-19-related information to men.
- Risk perception
- anxiety disorders
- depressive disorders
- low- A nd middle-income countries