Worry Much? Preventive Health Behaviours Related to Worry Across Countries Amid COVID-19
20 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 21, 2020
The heterogeneous spread of COVID-19 around the world has led to differing mental health impacts across countries. This is on account of varying state responses to curbing the pandemic as well as differences in individual preventive health behaviours. The present study examined the relationship between worry and health behaviours using secondary data from an online survey of nearly 70000 respondents from 33 countries. We hypothesized that preventive health behaviours would predict the level of worry experienced, which in turn would predict future health behaviours. Further, to account for cultural differences, regression analyses included a metric of cultural distance from the US. Past behaviours such as avoiding social gatherings, maintaining physical distance, and regular hand washing predicted higher worry, whereas staying at home negatively predicted worry. In general, being culturally distant from the US was associated with significantly lower worry. Results also showed that avoiding social gatherings and maintaining physical distance predicted less worry among respondents in countries culturally distant from the US. In contrast, reporting symptoms increased worry in such countries. Worry, in turn, differentially predicted whether individuals would leave their home in the next 5 days, reducing the likelihood of stepping outside (more so for “bad” behaviours such as for expressing personal freedoms and meeting others socially). However, being culturally distant from the US was not associated with (future) going out behaviours. Findings are discussed from a cross-cultural perspective, analysing worry as an approach-avoidance motivator of health-related behaviour. Capitalizing on cultural differences in approach-avoidance motivations is suggested to help inform health communication strategies.
Keywords: approach-avoidance, COVID-19, cross-cultural, preventive health behaviours, public health, worry
JEL Classification: I12, D04, D60
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation