Background: Particularly during the early and middle stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a population’s compliance with precautionary measures (e.g., hygiene rules, smart working, travel restrictions, and quarantine) is paramount in preventing the virus from spreading.
Objective: The investigation and documentation of different socio-demographic and personality-specific factors in regards to preventative measures and consequent specific health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the Health Belief Model.
Method: An online survey was conducted on N = 3,006 individuals living in Germany and Austria during the early stages of lockdown. The questionnaire consisted of a self-administered section, exploring the dimensions posited in the Health Belief Model: perceived severity, perceived susceptibility, perceived barriers, perceived benefits of health-promoting measures, and engagement in health-promoting behaviors. Additionally, the following standardized scales were used to record personality determinants: the Stress Coping Style Questionnaire SVF 78 to evaluate coping and processing strategies in stressful circumstances, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) to assess the emotional state induced by the coronavirus crisis, the UI-18 scale to diagnose the intolerance of uncertainty, and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to assess anxiety.
Results: In line with the Health Belief model, four groups were created based on perceived susceptibility and engagement in health-promoting behaviors, and consequently studied in relation to personality determinants. Those four groups differed significantly in regards to almost all personality dimensions (p ≤ 0.005). Group 1 (n = 450) shows a reduced engagement with protective measures and displays underestimation of the COVID-19-pandemic. Group 2 (n = 984) displays many positive personality variables and high compliance with protective measures. Group 3 (n = 468) perceives the subjective risk of disease as high, but high emotional discomfort and stress caused by the protective measures leads to the activation of a complex fear defense. Group 4 (n = 1,004) is highly anxious and therefore compliant.
Conclusions: This typification has implications for establishing the appropriate support systems. This is particularly important to encourage compliance with preventive regulations within the groups, which showed poor abidance for several reasons. For Group 1, further education on the realistic threat and efficient protective measures is as central as the fostering of empathy for others; with its resource-conscious exemplary behavior Group 2 could be used as a positive social role model. Group 3 would benefit from promoting self-care, while Group 4 requires information on psychosocial assistance availability in order to mitigate the high stress to which the group members are subjected.
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Eichenberg, C., Grossfurthner, M., Andrich, J., Hübner, L., Kietaibl, S., & Holocher-Benetka, S. (2019). The Relationship Between the Implementation of Statutory Preventative Measures, Perceived Susceptibility of COVID-19, and Personality Traits in the Initial Stage of Corona-Related Lockdown: A German and Austrian Population Online Survey. Front. Psychiatry, 12, 596281. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.596281