The impact of government actions and risk perception on the promotion of self-protective behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Javier Alvarez-Galvez, Andreas Anastasiou, Demetris Lamnisos, Marios Constantinou, Christiana Nicolaou, Savvas Papacostas, Vasilis S. Vasiliou, Louise McHugh, Jeļena Ļubenko, Francisco J. Ruiz, Marisa Paez Blarrina, Francisco Montesinos, Sonsoles Valdivia Salas, Rhonda A. Merwin, Maria Karekla, Andrew Gloster, Angelos P. Kassianos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We aim to understand the factors that drive citizens of different countries to adhere to recommended self-protective behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Survey data was obtained through the COVID-19 Impact project. We selected countries that presented a sufficiently complete time series and a statistically relevant sample for running the analysis: Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. To identify country-specific differences in self-protective behaviors, we used previous evidence and change-point detection analysis to establish variations across participating countries whose effect was then assessed by means of interrupted series analysis.

A high level of compliance with health and governmental authorities’ recommendations were generally observed in all included countries. The level of stress decreased near the period when countries such as Cyprus, Greece or the United Kingdom relaxed their prevention behavior recommendations. However, this relaxation of behaviors did not occur in countries such as Germany, Ireland, or the United States. As observed in the change-point detection analysis, when the daily number of recorded COVID-19 cases decreased, people relaxed their protective behaviors (Cyprus, Greece, Ireland), although the opposite trend was observed in Switzerland.

COVID-19 self-protective behaviors were heterogeneous across countries examined. Our findings show that there is probably no single winning strategy for exiting future health crises, as similar interventions, aimed to promote self-protective behaviors, may be received differently depending on the specific population groups and on the particular geographical context in which they are implemented.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLUS One
Issue number4
Early online date17 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2023

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