The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease

The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease

Steve Taylor (born 1967), is a British author and lecturer in psychology, who has written several books on psychology and spirituality. He is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University.

Taylor‘s main interest is in transpersonal psychology, which investigates higher states of consciousness and ‘awakening’ experiences. Taylor has a master’s degree (with distinction) in Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology and a PhD in Psychology from Liverpool John Moores University. Source: wikipedia

The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease PDF Download


There have been numerous pandemics over the past century and earlier, typically arising from some form of influenza. Pandemic influenza is widely considered to be one of the leading public health threats facing the world today. Virologists predict that the next influenza pandemic could arrive any time in the coming years, with potentially devastating consequences. People do not have pre-existing immunity to the pathogens causing pandemics. Effective drug treatments are not always available. Vaccinations, if available, and behavioral methods are first-line interventions for reducing morbidity and mortality. Behavioral methods include hygienic practices (e.g., hand-washing) and social distancing methods (e.g., limiting large social gatherings).

The question arises as to how best apportion healthcare resources for managing pandemics. Such resources, by definition, are limited. It is important that resources be apportioned to essential services and to the development and distribution of vaccines and other methods for halting or limiting the spread of infection. Remarkably, public health
agencies have devoted few resources for specifically dealing with the psychological factors that influence pandemic-related emotional reactions (e.g., fear, anxiety, distress) and behavioral problems (e.g., nonadherence, avoidance, stigmatization of out-groups). Healthcare authorities neglect the role of psychological factors in pandemic- related infection even though these factors are important for many reasons. They play a vital role, for example, in adherence to vaccination and social distancing, both of which are vital for stemming the spread of infection. Nonadherence to vaccination is a widespread problem even during pandemics.

Psychological factors also play an important role in the way in which people cope with the threat of pandemic infection and its sequelae, such as the loss of loved ones. Although many people cope well under threat, many other people experience high levels of distress or a worsening of pre-existing psychological problems, such as anxiety disorders and other clinical conditions. Psychological factors are further important for understanding and managing broader societal problems associated with pandemics, such as factors involved in the spreading of excessive fear. People may fear for their health, safety, family, finances, or jobs.

Psychological factors are also important for understanding and managing the potentially disruptive or maladaptive defensive reactions, such as increases in stigmatization and xenophobia that occur when people are threatened with infection. The purpose of this volume is to fill an important gap in the literature on pandemics. Goals are to (1) describe the psychological reactions to pandemics, including maladaptive behaviors and emotional
and defensive reactions, (2) review the psychological vulnerability factors that contribute to the spreading of disease and emotional distress, (3) discuss empirically supported methods for addressing these psychological problems, and (4) outline the implications for public health policy, including implications for risk communication. Influenza pandemics are used as prototypic examples because they have been the most common pandemics over the past century and influenza is likely to be a source of future pandemics. Other disease
outbreaks are discussed where relevant To achieve the aims of this volume, the author draws on sources from multiple disciplines, including virology, epidemiology, public health, sociology, history of medicine and, of course, psychology. Numerous sub disciplines within psychology are drawn upon, including clinical psychology, health psychology, and social psychology. In addition to drawing extensively from the research literature, case examples are included throughout this volume to highlight important issues.

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