Concerns about family and friends can influence people to follow Covid-19 protocols: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on December 19, 2020

A new study revealed that appealing to people’s concerns for their loved ones could help in making them adhere to the Covid-19 protocols. And, this may have implications for encouraging people to get the new vaccine.

In a recent survey study, people who said social distancing and Covid-safety guidelines violated their personal freedoms responded more positively to these ideas when they felt a loved one might be at risk of severe illness for Covid-19.

Study author Lawrence An, M.D., associate professor of general medicine at Michigan Medicine said in a statement, “Emphasizing the benefits of being a protector for others (instead of yourself) looks to be more effective in promoting greater adherence to recommended practices.”

People who respond negatively to being ‘told’ what to do are much less likely - by over 50 per cent - to routinely sport a mask. However, at the same time, concern for others increases mask-wearing, especially among those who report greater negativity, the study stated.

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For the study, An and colleagues surveyed 1,074 people across the United States about their attitudes toward the coronavirus. They found two sets of attitudes towards Covid-19 protocols:

Positive beliefs that largely mirror public health messaging

Negative beliefs, including the idea that social distancing violates individual rights and freedoms

The study noted that concern about a loved one’s risk of severe Covid-19 infection was associated with both higher positive attitudes and lower negative attitudes toward social distancing.

When people considered their own personal risk, they had higher positive attitudes but it did not impact their negative attitudes, the researchers added in their study.

Also read: Covid-19 death rate 3 times higher than influenza, study finds

“When people think about what protective behaviors to follow, negative beliefs - the perception of external control - override positive beliefs. This means that simply repeating that people should follow public health guidelines is unlikely to be effective,” said study author Kenneth Resnicow, Ph.D., professor of health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health.

“However, our data show that when people consider being a protector for others, they approach risk differently. They are less likely to let their personal beliefs and politics discourage them from practicing Covid protection. Emphasising the act of protecting others may help people who would otherwise be reluctant to practice Covid protection to feel independent and strong, rather than compliant or obedient,” he further added.

The findings of the study were published in the journal EurekAlert!.

Published on December 19, 2020

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