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Real Time Insights - COVID-19 Pandemic in India

Written by: Sarah Petrosyan

Published on: Apr 21, 2022


The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the lives of individuals across the world. Low- and middle-income countries, such as India, were disproportionately affected given the poor health infrastructure and constrained resources. Efforts to control the pandemic were enacted by the Government of India through the institution of a nationwide lockdown on March 25, 2020. Though these actions sought to prevent disease spread, they also posed socioeconomic risks that could threaten the wellbeing of the population. While the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is still uncertain, resources such as the RTI-COVID India Phone Survey data and codebook are available to start to better understand the socioeconomic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indian households.

The sample for the RTI-COVID India Phone Survey was developed through leveraging an existing study called the Harmonized Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia for the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI-DAD). LASI-DAD is a nationally representative study of late-life cognition and dementia in India. We invited the LASI-DAD household members, aged 18 years and older, for a phone interview and followed them throughout the pandemic, starting in May 2020. With this survey, we aimed to measure individual respondent’s perceptions, attitudes, and behavioral reactions related to the pandemic. We have completed 8 rounds of data collection thus far, and are currently administering Round 9 interviews.

To ensure national representation and high-quality data collection, the instrument and consent were translated into 12 languages: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Tamil, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Assamese, Odiya, Marathi, and Telugu. The questionnaire was designed to allow for the investigation of several research questions by including various modules, while keeping the survey administration time about 15-20 minutes. Therefore, some modules may be asked every round, only one round, or rotated through multiple rounds. Economic and healthcare questions were asked at the household level, while other questions were asked at the individual level. As the pandemic progressed, questions were added to better capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indian households. Figure 1 shows a summary of the modules included and the rounds they were administered.

Data and codebook documentation for the first six rounds of the RTI-COVID India phone survey are publicly available for download. Several research questions can be explored looking into behaviors, mental health, economic burden, social isolation, and vaccine hesitancy, among others, throughout the course of the pandemic. For instance, Schaner et al. assessed adherence to COVID-19 protective behaviors in India from May to December 2020. Findings suggest a decline in protective behaviors related to social distancing over the observation period (see Figure 2). They argue that the changes in behavior could reflect ‘COVID-19 fatigue’, where adherence to social distancing becomes more difficult over time irrespective of the surrounding disease environment. These findings have important policy implications for future government response, given that restrictive behaviors appear difficult to sustain over time.


RTI-COVID India offers an opportunity to study behaviors, health, and the economic burden brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings have the potential to contribute to policy decisions and strengthen the response to future pandemics or other public health emergencies. We hope this introduction and the resources provided allow researchers to start exploring this rich data and gain insight into the socioeconomic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

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