Over 40% of Americans have misled others about COVID-19 status – @theU

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According to a new national study conducted in part by University of Utah Health scientists. The most common reasons were the desire to feel normal and to exercise personal freedom.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Health

University of Utah health scientists Angela Fagerlin and Alistair Thorpe conducted a study of how and why some people were less than truthful about their COVID-19 status.

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The study, which appears in the October 10, 2022 issue of JAMA Network Open, raises concerns about how the reluctance to accurately report health status and compliance with face coverings, social distancing and other public health measures could potentially prolong the current COVID-19 pandemic or promote the spread of other infectious diseases in the future, according to Angela Fagerlinlead study author and director of the Department of Population Health Sciences at U of U Health.

“COVID-19 safety measures can certainly be cumbersome, but they work,” says Andrea Gurmankin Levy, a social science professor at Middlesex Community College in Connecticut. As co-lead author of the study, she worked in collaboration with Fagerlin and other scientists at the U of U Heath as well as researchers elsewhere in the United States.

“When people are dishonest about their COVID-19 status or the precautions they are taking, it can increase the spread of disease in their community,” Levy says. “For some people, especially before we had COVID vaccines, it can mean death.”

Researchers decided to assess how truthful Americans are about their COVID-19 disease status and/or compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures after noticing several media stories about people being dishonest about their vaccination status. , says Fagerlin.

In the survey, conducted in December 2021, more than 1,700 people from across the country were asked to reveal if they had ever misrepresented their COVID-19 status or vaccination status or if they had told others that they were following public health measures when they were not. t. The sample size is much larger and asks about a broader range of behaviors than previous studies on this topic, according to Fagerlin, who is also a researcher at the Veteran Affairs Salt Lake City Healthcare System.

The screening questions allowed the researchers and health service psychologists who designed the study to evenly divide the participants: one-third who had had COVID-19, one-third who had not had COVID-19 and who was vaccinated, and a third who had not had COVID-19. had COVID-19 and were not vaccinated.

Based on a list of nine behaviors, 721 respondents (42%) reported misrepresenting their COVID-19 status or not following public health recommendations. Some of the most common incidents were:

  • Break quarantine rules
  • Telling someone they were with or about to see they were taking more COVID-19 precautions than they actually were
  • Without mentioning that they could have had, or knew they had, COVID-19 when they walked into a doctor’s office
  • Telling someone they were vaccinated when they weren’t
  • Saying they haven’t been vaccinated when they have been

All age groups under 60 and those with greater distrust of science were more likely to engage in misrepresentation and/or misrepresentation than others. About 60% of respondents said they had sought medical advice for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

However, the researchers found no association between misrepresentation of COVID-19 and political beliefs, political party affiliation, or religion.

“Some people may think that if they lie once or twice about their COVID-19 status, it’s okay,” Fagerlin says. “But if, as our study suggests, nearly half of us do, that’s a significant problem that’s helping to prolong the pandemic.”

Reasons cited by respondents for misrepresentation include:

  • I didn’t think COVID-19 was real, or it didn’t matter
  • It’s nobody else’s business
  • I didn’t feel sick
  • I was following the advice of a celebrity or other public figure
  • I couldn’t miss work to stay home

Among the limitations of the study, the researchers could not determine whether respondents answered the survey questions honestly, which opens the possibility that their findings underestimate how often people misrepresent their health status. .

“This study shows us to a large extent people’s concerns about the public health measures implemented in response to the pandemic and their likelihood of being honest in the face of a global crisis,” says Alistair Thorpe, co-first author and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Population Health Sciences at U of U Health. “Knowing this will help us better prepare for the next wave of disease around the world.”


In addition to Fagerlin and Thorpe, University of Utah researchers Holly Shoemaker, Frank A. Drews, Jorie M. Butler, and Vanessa Stevens contributed to this study. Other participating institutions include Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Connecticut; University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora; Denver Veterans Innovation Center; University of Iowa School of Medicine, Iowa City; Salt Lake City VA Informatics Decision-Enhancement and Analytic Sciences (IDEAS) Center for Innovation; VA Salt Lake City Health Care System and the American Heart Association.

The study, “Misrepresentation and non-adherence regarding COVID-19 public health measures,” appears in the October 10, 2022 issue of JAMA Network Open. He was supported by the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowment and a grant from the American Heart Association’s Children’s Strategic Research Network.

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