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Comparative optimism about infection and recovery from COVID‐19; Implications for adherence with lockdown advice

Asimakopoulou, Koula and Hoorens, Vera and Speed, Ewen and Coulson, Neil S and Antoniszczak, Dominika and Collyer, Fran and Deschrijver, Eliane and Dubbin, Leslie and Faulks, Denise and Forsyth, Rowena and Goltsi, Vicky and Harsløf, Ivan and Larsen, Kristian and Manaras, Irene and Olczak‐Kowalczyk, Dorota and Willis, Karen and Xenou, Tatiana and Scambler, Sasha (2020) 'Comparative optimism about infection and recovery from COVID‐19; Implications for adherence with lockdown advice.' Health Expectations. ISSN 1369-6513

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Background Comparative optimism, the belief that negative events are more likely to happen to others rather than to oneself, is well established in health risk research. It is unknown, however, whether comparative optimism also permeates people’s health expectations and potentially behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objectives Data were collected through an international survey (N = 6485) exploring people’s thoughts and psychosocial behaviours relating to COVID‐19. This paper reports UK data on comparative optimism. In particular, we examine the belief that negative events surrounding risk and recovery from COVID-19 are perceived as more likely to happen to others rather than to oneself. Methods Using online snowball sampling through social media, anonymous UK survey data were collected from N = 645 adults during weeks 5-8 of the UK COVID-19 lockdown. The sample was normally distributed in terms of age and reflected the UK ethnic and disability profile. Findings Respondents demonstrated comparative optimism where they believed that as compared to others of the same age and gender, they were unlikely to experience a range of controllable (eg accidentally infect/ be infected) and uncontrollable (eg need hospitalization/ intensive care treatment if infected) COVID-19-related risks in the short term (P < .001). They were comparatively pessimistic (ie thinking they were more at risk than others for developing COVID-19-related infection or symptoms) when thinking about the next year. Discussion This is one of the first ever studies to report compelling comparative biases in UK adults’ thinking about COVID-19.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: comparative optimism, COVID‐19, lockdown, risk perceptions, unrealistic optimism
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2020 10:45
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2020 11:15

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