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Agoraphobic avoidance of everyday situations is a common feature in many mental health disorders. Avoidance can be due to a variety of fears, including concerns about negative social evaluation, panicking, and harm from others. The result is inactivity and isolation. Behavioural avoidance tasks (BATs) provide an objective assessment of avoidance and in situ anxiety but are challenging to administer and lack standardisation. Our aim was to draw on the principles of BATs to develop a self-report measure of agoraphobia symptoms.
The scale was developed with 194 patients with agoraphobia in the context of psychosis, 427 individuals in the general population with high levels of agoraphobia, and 1094 individuals with low levels of agoraphobia. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were used. Validity was assessed against a BAT, actigraphy data, and an existing agoraphobia measure. Test–retest reliability was assessed with 264 participants.
An eight-item questionnaire with avoidance and distress response scales was developed. The avoidance and distress scales each had an excellent model fit and reliably assessed agoraphobic symptoms across the severity spectrum. All items were highly discriminative (avoidance: a = 1.24–5.43; distress: a = 1.60–5.48), indicating that small increases in agoraphobic symptoms led to a high probability of item endorsement. The scale demonstrated good internal reliability, test–retest reliability, and validity.
The Oxford Agoraphobic Avoidance Scale has excellent psychometric properties. Clinical cut-offs and score ranges are provided. This precise assessment tool may help focus attention on the clinically important problem of agoraphobic avoidance.
When vaccination depends on injection, it is plausible that the blood-injection-injury cluster of fears may contribute to hesitancy. Our primary aim was to estimate in the UK adult population the proportion of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy explained by blood-injection-injury fears.
In total, 15 014 UK adults, quota sampled to match the population for age, gender, ethnicity, income and region, took part (19 January–5 February 2021) in a non-probability online survey. The Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Scale assessed intent to be vaccinated. Two scales (Specific Phobia Scale-blood-injection-injury phobia and Medical Fear Survey–injections and blood subscale) assessed blood-injection-injury fears. Four items from these scales were used to create a factor score specifically for injection fears.
In total, 3927 (26.2%) screened positive for blood-injection-injury phobia. Individuals screening positive (22.0%) were more likely to report COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy compared to individuals screening negative (11.5%), odds ratio = 2.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.97–2.40, p < 0.001. The population attributable fraction (PAF) indicated that if blood-injection-injury phobia were absent then this may prevent 11.5% of all instances of vaccine hesitancy, AF = 0.11; 95% CI 0.09–0.14, p < 0.001. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was associated with higher scores on the Specific Phobia Scale, r = 0.22, p < 0.001, Medical Fear Survey, r = 0.23, p = <0.001 and injection fears, r = 0.25, p < 0.001. Injection fears were higher in youth and in Black and Asian ethnic groups, and explained a small degree of why vaccine hesitancy is higher in these groups.
Across the adult population, blood-injection-injury fears may explain approximately 10% of cases of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Addressing such fears will likely improve the effectiveness of vaccination programmes.
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