How did adolescents view COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, and how did their attitudes shape their associated behaviors?

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Bottom Line:

The majority of adolescents did not practice physical distancing, but did practice disinfecting behaviors and followed COVID-related news. Those who viewed the virus as more severe were significantly more likely to follow the news, practice physical distancing, and disinfecting behaviors.


Oosterhoff, B. & Palmer, C.A. Attitudes and psychological factors associated with news monitoring, social distancing, disinfecting, and hoarding behaviors among US adolescents during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. JAMA Pediatrics (2020).

Date Published:

29 June 2020


COVID-19 has been shown to affect older adults significantly more severely than children and adolescents, but those under the age of 20 may still spread the disease, even asymptomatically. It is therefore important to understand adolescents’ attitudes and views related to COVID-19, as it may determine their willingness to practice physical distancing and help reduce the spread of the virus. This study looked at the attitudes towards COVID-19 of adolescents aged 13-18 years old in the United States and their associated behaviors (e.g. physical distancing, disinfecting and/or washing hands, hoarding supplies). In the 7 days following the declaration of a national emergency in the US, nearly 70% of respondents reported that they did not practice physical distancing, but nearly 90% were following news coverage about COVID-19 and were disinfecting daily. However, the study found that attitudes directly affected adolescents’ behaviors. Respondents who viewed the virus more severely (e.g. they responded negatively to items such as “the coronavirus is just the flu”) were significantly more likely to practice physical distancing, disinfecting behaviors, and more frequent monitoring of the news.

Summary by: Jennifer Gutberg