Fear & anxiety in the time of COVID-19: How they influence behavior

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The emotional factors that influence adherence to public health guidelines for containing the spread of COVID-19 are poorly understood and are limiting policymakers’ ability to elicit compliance. In this article, we report the results of a nationwide survey conducted in April 2020 to gain insight into the relation between emotional stress and adherence to the public health guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We found that levels of anxiety and perceived risk from COVID-19 correlated with adherence to the CDC’s recommended cleanliness behaviors, such as handwashing. High anxiety increased individuals’ adherence in part by increasing the perceived seriousness of the risk COVID-19 posed to them. Anxiety and perceived risk were not, however, associated with adherence to social distancing guidelines. Our findings highlight a need for more research into the emotional factors that predict public compliance with the CDC’s recommendations. The results also indicate that policymakers may need to deliver different messages to promote different COVID-limiting behaviors, such as handwashing and social distancing.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zigler, CK; Lucas, N; Henke, DM; Fridman, I

Published Date

  • January 1, 2020

Published In

  • Behavioral Science and Policy

Volume / Issue

  • 6 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 145 - 152

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2379-4615

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2379-4607

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1353/BSP.2020.0025

Citation Source

  • Scopus