October 12, 2022

Nearly half of US adults surveyed said they mislead others about their COVID-19 status

Editor's Note

This national survey study led by researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, and Middlesex Community College, Middletown, Connecticut, finds that nearly half of US adults surveyed reported misrepresentation of and nonadherence to COVID-19 public health measures.

Among the survey findings:

  • Of 1,733 participants in the final sample, 721 (41.6%) reported misrepresentation and/or nonadherence in at least 1 of 9 items assessed
  • 420 (24.3%) of 1,726 reported telling someone they were with or about to be with in person that they were taking more preventive measures than they actually were
  • 190 (22.5%) of 845 said they broke quarantine rules
  • 171 (21.0%) of 814 said they avoided getting tested when they thought they might have COVID-19
  • 193 (20.4%) of 945 reported not mentioning that they thought they might have or knew they had COVID-19, while being screened to enter a clinician’s office.

The most common reasons for misrepresentation and nonadherence were wanting life to feel normal and wanting to exercise personal freedom. Those younger than 60 years of age and those with greater distrust in science had significantly higher odds of misrepresentation and nonadherence.

The results reveal a serious public health challenge for the COVID-19 pandemic and future disease outbreaks, the researchers say. Further studies are needed to examine strategies for communicating the consequences of misrepresentation and nonadherence and to address contributing factors.

JAMA (healthcare publication) Network logo

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