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Social, Cognitive, and Emotional Predictors of Adherence to Physical Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
19 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020More...
Background: In order for physical distancing directives to be effective at lowering and flattening the epidemic peak during a pandemic, individuals must adhere to confinement guidelines. Recent reviews highlight the paucity of empirical research on predictors of adherence to physical distancing and quarantine directives.
Methods: Using a sample (N = 1003) representative of the population in terms of age, gender, and urbanicity in Quebec, Canada, we examined theory-based cognitive, emotional, and social predictors of adherence to physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Findings: Age, gender and essential worker status were significant socio-demographic predictors of adherence to physical distancing. Among the theory-based predictors, personal injunctive norms, perceived benefits of physical distancing to others, and descriptive social norms were independent predictors of adherence status. Individuals were more likely to report fully adhering to physical distancing if they believed that it is their civic duty to adhere to these directives, that physical distancing helps protect vulnerable individuals and solve the ongoing crisis, and if they perceive that most other people are following these directives. Psychological distress and perceived loneliness did not independently predict adherence. Moderation analyses revealed unique predictors as a function of health risk status, essential workers status, and urbanicity.
Interpretation: These results highlight the importance of health beliefs and perceived social norms in shaping responses to physical distancing directives. These findings offer insights into ways to frame public health communications and to tailor them to specific segments of the population.
Funding Statement: This study was funded by a grant from the Quebec Research Network on Suicide, Mood Disorders, and Associated Disorders.
Declaration of Interests: All authors declare no competing interests.
Ethics Approval Statement: This study was approved by the institutional ethics review board. Participants provided informed consent before participating.
Keywords: physical distancing; health belief; social norms; COVID-19; health behaviour change; health communication
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