By Cara Murez HealthDay reporter
Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, Oct. 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40% of Americans were not truthful about having the virus or ignoring safety precautions, a nationwide poll shows.
The December poll of 1,700 people found 721 respondents had either misrepresented their COVID status or failed to follow public health recommendations.
People ignored quarantine rules, told someone they’d soon see they had taken more precautions than they actually were, and didn’t mention they might have or have had COVID when entering a doctor’s office. They were also untrue about vaccination status, claiming they were vaccinated when they weren’t, or that they weren’t vaccinated when they underwent vaccination, the survey found.
The most common reasons for the lack of transparency were the desire to feel normal or to exercise personal freedom.
“COVID-19 safety measures can certainly be onerous, but they work,” said co-author Andrea Gurmankin Levy, professor of social sciences at Middlesex Community College in Connecticut.
Co-author Angela Fagerlin, chief of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah Health, said the survey raises concerns about how reluctance to truthfully report health conditions and compliance with masking, social distancing and health measures public health could prolong the pandemic and spread infectious diseases.
“Some individuals may think that if they lie once or twice about their COVID-19 status, it’s not a big deal,” Fagerlin said in a University of Utah news release. “But if, as our study suggests, almost half of us are doing it, that’s a significant problem that’s helping to prolong the pandemic.”
Respondents gave a variety of reasons for their deception. Among them: They didn’t think COVID was real or a big deal; they didn’t feel sick; they couldn’t miss work or stay home; they followed the advice of a public figure or celebrity; and after all, it was nobody’s business.
“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 said in the release. “For some people, especially before we had COVID vaccines, that can mean death.”
Those most likely to give false information included those under the age of 60 and those with a greater distrust of science. About 60% of respondents said they had consulted a doctor for advice on how to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The study found no association between misrepresentation and political beliefs, party affiliation, or religion.
Fagerlin said that compared to previous studies on the subject, this survey asked about a broader range of behaviors and included far more participants.
However, the researchers said they couldn’t determine whether respondents were honest in their answers, and the results may underestimate how often people were dishonest about their health status.
“This study goes a long way in showing us what concerns people have about public health responses to the pandemic and how likely they are to be honest in the face of a global crisis,” said Co- Author Alistair Thorpe, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah Health. “Knowing this will help us better prepare for the next global outbreak.”
The results were published on October 10th JAMA network open.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: University of Utah Health, press release, October 10, 2022