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Non-compliance with COVID-19-related public health measures among young adults in Switzerland: Insights from a longitudinal cohort study.

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Nivette, Amy 
Ribeaud, Denis 
Murray, Aja 
Steinhoff, Annekatrin 
Bechtiger, Laura 


RATIONALE: Adolescents and young adults were identified internationally as a group with potentially low compliance rates with public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although non-compliance research during pandemics has typically focused on concurrent correlates, less is known about how prior social and psychological risk factors are associated with non-compliance during pandemics. OBJECTIVE: This paper leverages a prospective-longitudinal cohort study with data before and during the pandemic to describe patterns of non-compliance with COVID- 19 related public health measures in young adults and to identify which characteristics increase the risk of non-compliance. METHODS: Data came from an ongoing cohort study in Zurich, Switzerland (n=737). Non-compliance with public health measures and concurrent correlates were measured at age 22. Antecedent sociodemographic, social, and psychological factors were measured at ages 15-20. Young adults generally complied with COVID-19 public health measures, although non-compliance with some measures (e.g., cleaning/disinfecting mobile phones, standing 1.5-2 meters apart) was relatively higher. RESULTS: Non-compliance, especially with hygiene-related measures, was more prevalent in males, and in individuals with higher education, higher SES, and a nonmigrant background. Non-compliance was higher in young adults who had previously scored high on indicators of "antisocial potential," including low acceptance of moral rules, pre-pandemic legal cynicism, low shame/guilt, low self-control, engagement in delinquent behaviors, and association with delinquent peers. Young adults with low trust, including in the government's measures for fighting the virus, also complied less. CONCLUSIONS: In order to increase voluntary compliance with COVID-19 measures, public health campaigns should implement strategies that foster moral obligation and trust in authorities, or leverage trustworthy individuals in the community to disseminate information. For young adults with low self-control, self-monitoring, environmental restructuring, or nudging may increase compliance. Long-term investments into integrating youth with antisocial potential into society may decrease rule-breaking behaviors, including during pandemics when compliance saves lives.



Adolescent, COVID-19, Female, Guideline Adherence, Guidelines as Topic, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Prospective Studies, Public Health, Switzerland, Young Adult

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Soc Sci Med

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Elsevier BV
Jacobs Foundation (unknown)