Behavioral and psychosocial factors associated with COVID-19 skepticism in the United States

Carl A. Latkin, Lauren Dayton, Meghan Moran, Justin C. Strickland, Karina Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

COVID-19 skepticism can be conceptualized as the denial of the seriousness of the illness and the perception that the pandemic is overblown or a hoax. In the current study, we examined the association between COVID-19 skepticism and frequency of engaging in COVID-19 prevention behaviors, political ideology, social norms about distancing, COVID-19 information-seeking behaviors, and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. A survey was administered from May 5th–14th. At that time, there were over 1 million COVID-19 cases in the US. Participants were recruited online through MTurk. The three outcome variables were handwashing, mask wearing, and social distancing. Injunctive and descriptive norms were assessed as well as measures of perceived risk to self and others. There were 683 participants in the analyses. In the multiple logistic regression model, those who were of younger age (aOR = 0.97, p < 0.05), better health (aOR = 0.56, p < 0.01), and more politically conservative (aOR = 1.32, p < 0.01) were more likely to endorse COVID-19 skepticism statements. People who reported higher Skepticism were also less likely to that believe people close to them would die from COVID-19 (aOR = 4.2, p < 0.01), engage in COVID-19 prevention behaviors, including spending time inside to prevent coronavirus (aOR = 0.33, p < 0.01) and frequently wear a mask outside (aOR = 0.44, p < 0.01). Those who were more skeptical about COVID-19 were also more likely to believe the conspiracy theory that China purposefully spread the virus (aOR = 6.38 p < 0.01). COVID-19 Skepticism was strongly associated with reduced engagement in COVID-19 prevention behaviors. These findings bolster the arguments for making these public health recommendations mandatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Conspiracy theory
  • Covid-19
  • Prevention
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Skepticism
  • Social distance
  • Social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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