The role of general vs pandemic-specific paranoid ideation in the use of recommended health behaviors and vaccine willingness during a worldwide pandemic: An international study in the general public

Brandon Gaudiano, Russell Marks, Lyn Ellett, Suzanne So, Tania Lincoln, Eric Morris, Jess Kingston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The public's adherence to recommended COVID-19 preventative behaviors, including vaccinations and social distancing, has been low in certain groups and has contributed to many preventable deaths worldwide. An examination of general and pandemic-specific aspects of nonclinical paranoid ideation may aid in the understanding of the public's response to the pandemic, given that it is a global threat event.

A representative international sample of general adults (N = 2,510) from five international sites were recruited with stratified quota sampling. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine the relationships among general paranoid ideation, pandemic paranoid ideation (interpersonal mistrust, conspiratorial thinking, and persecutory threat), general distress (depression, anxiety), vaccine willingness, and other preventative behaviors (masking, social distancing, hygiene).

Although general distress and paranoid ideation were associated with vaccination willingness and preventative behaviors, their effects were inconsistent or weak. Pandemic paranoid ideation showed robust direct and indirect effects that differentially predicted COVID-19 preventative behaviors, with higher interpersonal mistrust associated with higher adherence to all behaviors, higher conspiratorial thinking related to lower adherence to all behaviors, and higher persecutory threat related to higher vaccine willingness, but lower adherence to other preventative behaviors.

Examination of pandemic-specific paranoid ideation leads to more precise prediction of the public's adherence to recommended health behaviors during the COVID-19 outbreak. This information could be used to inform intervention strategies for micro-targeting different subgroups with nonclinical paranoid thinking, as well as for improving responses to future pandemics and vaccination efforts for other common illnesses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-118
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Early online date18 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • paranoia
  • general population
  • vaccine willingness
  • adherance
  • covid-19
  • International

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