Misrepresentation and Nonadherence Regarding COVID-19 Public Health Measures

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Importance: The effectiveness of public health measures implemented to mitigate the spread and impact of SARS-CoV-2 relies heavily on honesty and adherence from the general public. Objective: To examine the frequency of, reasons for, and factors associated with misrepresentation and nonadherence regarding COVID-19 public health measures. Design, Setting, and Participants: This survey study recruited a national, nonprobability sample of US adults to participate in an online survey using Qualtrics online panels (participation rate, 1811 of 2260 [80.1%]) from December 8 to 23, 2021. The survey contained screening questions to allow for a targeted sample of one-third who had had COVID-19, one-third who had not had COVID-19 and were vaccinated, and one-third who had not had COVID-19 and were unvaccinated. Main Outcomes and Measures: The survey assessed 9 different types of misrepresentation and nonadherence related to COVID-19 public health measures and the reasons underlying such behaviors. Additional questions measured COVID-19-related beliefs and behaviors and demographic characteristics. Results: The final sample included 1733 participants. The mean (SD) participant age was 41 (15) years and the sample predominantly identified as female (1143 of 1732 [66.0%]) and non-Hispanic White (1151 of 1733 [66.4%]). Seven hundred twenty-one participants (41.6%) reported misrepresentation and/or nonadherence in at least 1 of the 9 items; telling someone they were with or about to be with in person that they were taking more COVID-19 preventive measures than they actually were (420 of 1726 [24.3%]) and breaking quarantine rules (190 of 845 [22.5%]) were the most common manifestations. The most commonly endorsed reasons included wanting life to feel normal and wanting to exercise personal freedom. All age groups younger than 60 years (eg, odds ratio for those aged 18-29 years, 4.87 [95% CI, 3.27-7.34]) and those who had greater distrust in science (odds ratio, 1.14 [95% CI, 1.05-1.23]) had significantly higher odds of misrepresentation and/or nonadherence for at least 1 of the 9 items. Conclusions and Relevance: In this survey study of US adults, nearly half of participants reported misrepresentation and/or nonadherence regarding public health measures against COVID-19. Future work is needed to examine strategies for communicating the consequences of misrepresentation and nonadherence and to address contributing factors..




Levy, A. G., Thorpe, A., Scherer, L. D., Scherer, A. M., Drews, F. A., Butler, J. M., … Fagerlin, A. (2022). Misrepresentation and Nonadherence Regarding COVID-19 Public Health Measures. JAMA Network Open, E2235837. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.35837

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