Online Survey of the Impact of COVID-19 Risk and Cost Estimates on Worry and Health Behavior Compliance in Young Adult

Thumyat Noe ’23

Figure 1: The COVID-19 pandemic has led young adults to experience anxiety and develop non-compliance to health guidelines. To alleviate anxiety and encourage young adults to follow health guidelines, it is important to understand decision-making mechanisms in young adults. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major mental health consequences such as anxiety and non-compliance with health guidelines within the general population, especially among young adults. To effectively treat anxiety and encourage compliance with public health guidelines among young adults, it is important to understand factors that contribute to COVID-19 related anxiety as well as decision-making mechanisms that contribute to compliance with public health guidelines in young adults. Anxiety is driven by decision-making biases that involve exaggerated risk estimates of negative events. Past research in decision has shown that effective human behavior is guided by accurate perception of risks and costs associated with those negative events. Since younger adults tend to show lower compliance with health guidelines, learning more about their perceived risk and estimates of COVID-19 infection may be the key to understanding non-compliance with public health guidelines in young adults. The objective of this study conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University is to examine the relationship between perceived risks and costs of COVID-19 with symptoms of anxiety and compliance with health guidelines in college students. Based on previous studies regarding anxiety and decision, researchers hypothesized that greater perceived risks and costs of contracting COVID-19 would lead to greater worry and compliance with health guidelines in young adults. 

A total of 261 undergraduate students at Stony Brook University participated in this study. All participants provided consent. The experiment was hosted online. Links to surveys that assessed their adherence to health guidelines, rated their perceived risks and costs of COVID-19 related outcomes, and anxiety towards the pandemic were made accessible to the participants. 

Results show that greater perceived risk of contracting COVID-19, experiencing more serious COVID-19 symptoms, and greater COVID-19 perceived costs were associated with greater severity of worry symptoms. Beliefs about COVID-19 perceived costs were positively associated with engagement in health behaviors, but neither higher perceived risk of COVID-19, nor higher perceived risk of becoming ill due to COVID-19 was not related to participants’ adherence to health guidelines. This suggests that young adults are motivated to follow health guidelines out of anxiety towards COVID-19 related costs. However, the results cannot be generalized as the sample only consisted of college students from a new York Metro area. Nevertheless, these findings provide clues as to how young adults can be encouraged to adhere to health guidelines during pandemics.

Work(s) Cited: 

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