Perceived Effectiveness of COVID-19 Preventive Practices and Behavioral Intention: Survey of a Representative Adult Sample in the United States


Psychological Science

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Background: Using existing models of behavioral health promotion, specifically the Extended Parallel Process Model, previous research has identified factors that may impact engagement in preventive health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic such as perceived threat, perceived susceptibility to the threat, perceived severity, and perceived efficacy. Objective: This study aims to examine the role of perceived effectiveness of COVID-19 preventive behaviors, perceived susceptibility, perceived threat, and perceived severity of COVID-19 in participants' intentions to engage in Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-recommended individual health behaviors in the first year of the pandemic. Methods: In October 2020, a representative sample of 506 US adults completed a web-based survey through the RAND American Life Panel. Results: The study primarily found that participants who perceived that CDC-recommended health practices were effective had stronger intentions to engage in those practices. The second strongest correlate was participants' perceived severity of COVID-19 across the United States. Perceived effectiveness of recommended practices accounted for the largest variance in behavioral intention. However, analysis of individual behaviors indicated a mismatch in the behaviors perceived to be the most effective (avoiding sick people and mask-wearing) and those participants indicated intention to engage in (throwing away used tissues, avoiding sick people, and coughing into their elbows) in the next 30 days. Conclusions: The authors recommend tailoring public health messaging to address the perceived threat of COVID-19 and self-efficacy. Thus, health promotion efforts should emphasize the effectiveness of CDC-recommended practices while highlighting the pandemic's severity. Additionally, rebuilding trust in public health messaging and messengers is necessary to increase perceived self-efficacy. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health messaging must continue to promote and build trust in CDC-recommended health practices and educate regarding the efficacy of vaccination and other preventive behaviors.

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JMIR Human Factors

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