Anxiety and Panic Buying Behaviour during COVID-19 Pandemic-A Qualitative Analysis of Toilet Paper Hoarding Contents on Twitter.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 01 27; 18(3)IJ
Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had increased population-level anxiety and had elicited panic buying behaviour across the world. The over-hoarding of toilet paper has received a lot of negative public attention. In this work, we used Twitter data to qualitatively analyse tweets related to panic buying of toilet paper during the crisis. Methods: A total of 255,171 tweets were collected. Of these 4081 met our inclusion criteria and 100 tweets were randomly selected to develop a coding scheme in the initial phase. Random samples of tweets in folds of 100 were then qualitatively analysed in the focused coding phase until saturation was met at 500 tweets analysed. Results: Five key themes emerged: (1) humour or sarcasm, (2) marketing or profiteering, (3) opinion and emotions, (4) personal experience, and (5) support or information. About half of the tweets carried negative sentiments, expressing anger or frustration towards the deficiency of toilet paper and the frantic situation of toilet paper hoarding, which were among the most influential tweets. Discussion: Panic buying of toilet paper was seen during the 2020 pandemic period with a mass amount of related content spread across social media. The spontaneous contagion of fear and panic through social media could fuel psychological reactions in midst of crises. The high level of negative social media posts regarding the toilet paper crisis acts as an emotional trigger of public anxiety and panic. Conclusions: Social media data can provide rapid infodemiology of public mental health. In a pandemic or crisis situation, real-time data could be monitored and content-analysed for authorities to promptly address public concerns.