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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-317639


Background and Objectives: To deepen the understanding of processes underlying older adults’ behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, we investigated associations among affective (anxiety about the coronavirus), cognitive (perceived risk of infection and fatality), and behavioral (engagement in preventive behaviors) variables. We also examined how these variables were predicted by personality traits measured before the pandemic.Research Design and Methods: Older adults (N = 1,727;78–99 years old) were recruited from an ongoing longitudinal cohort study started in 2010. They responded to a questionnaire sent in August 2020, which included four items measuring COVID-19 anxiety, infection risk perception, fatality risk perception, and engagement in preventive behaviors. Big Five personality traits were measured years ago when the participants had first participated in the study. Results: Most participants felt anxious, engaged in preventive behaviors, and overestimated infection and fatality risks. Older age was associated with low anxiety, a low perception of infection risk, a high perception of fatality risk, and a little engagement in preventive behaviors. Women were more susceptible to the pandemic than men were, demonstrated by higher scores on all four items. Partial correlation analysis controlling for age and sex demonstrated positive associations among all four items except for infection risk perception and preventive behaviors. Anxiety and perceived infection risk were positively predicted by neuroticism and conscientiousness, respectively. Engagement in preventive behaviors was positively predicted by extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness.Discussion and Implications: We highlighted the critical distinction between infection and fatality risk perceptions and demonstrated the need to consider each individual’s attributes.