Preprint: Psychological Correlates of News Monitoring, Social Distancing, Disinfecting, and Hoarding Behaviors among US Adolescents during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Benjamin Oosterhoff, Cara palmer

LAST EDITED March 23, 2020


Importance: As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, it is critical to understand the psychological factors that influence pandemic-related behaviors (i.e., news monitoring, social distancing, hygiene/disinfecting, hoarding). This may be especially important to study among youth, who are less likely to experience severe symptoms but contribute to the spread of the virus.

Design: Self-report online survey conducted between March 20th and March 22nd, 2020. A population-based sample of adolescents were recruited via social media to complete an anonymous survey. Youth were eligible if they had internet access, lived in the United States, and were between the ages of 13 and 18.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The a priori hypotheses were that attitudes about the severity of COVID-19, along with greater social responsibility and social trust, would be associated with greater news monitoring, social distancing, and disinfecting, whereas greater self-interest would be associated with more hoarding.

Results: The final analytic sample included 770 adolescents (Mage = 16.34, 72% female). The majority of teens reported not engaging in pure social distancing (70%), but were monitoring the news (75%) and engaging in at least one disinfecting behavior multiple times per day (88%). Some teens reported engaging in hoarding behavior (19%). Greater attitudes about the severity of COVID-19 were associated with more social distancing, disinfecting, and news monitoring, but also more hoarding. Greater social responsibility was associated with more disinfecting and news monitoring, and less hoarding. Participants who reported valuing their own self-interest over others reported less social distancing and more hoarding. Greater social trust was associated with less hoarding.

Conclusions and Relevance: Emphasizing the severity of COVID-19 and the social implications of pandemic-related behaviors may be important for teens, particularly for those who are not following recommended preventative health behaviors or who are engaging in hoarding.


PsyArXiv – DOI: