Public Health Information Seeking, Trust, and COVID-19 Prevention Behaviors: Cross-sectional Study

Emmanuel Kwabena Tetteh, Todd Combs, Elvin Hsing Geng, Virginia Ruth McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Preventative health measures such as shelter in place and mask wearing have been widely encouraged to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease. People's attitudes toward preventative behaviors may be dependent on their sources of information and trust in the information. Objective: The aim of this study was to understand the relationship between trusting in COVID-19 information and preventative behaviors in a racially and politically diverse metropolitan area in the United States. Methods: We conducted a web-based cross-sectional survey of residents in St. Louis City and County in Missouri. Individuals aged ≥18 years were eligible to participate. Participants were recruited using a convenience sampling approach through social media and email. The Health Belief Model and the Socioecological Model informed instrument development, as well as COVID-19-related questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We performed an ordinary least squares linear regression model to estimate social distancing practices, perceptions, and trust in COVID-19 information sources. Results: Of the 1650 eligible participants, the majority (n=1381, 83.7%) had sought or received COVID-19-related information from a public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or both. Regression analysis showed a 1% increase in preventative behaviors for every 12% increase in trust in governmental health agencies. At their lowest levels of trust, women were 68% more likely to engage in preventative behaviors than men. Overall, those aged 18-45 years without vulnerable medical conditions were the least likely to engage in preventative behaviors. Conclusions: Trust in COVID-19 information increases an individual's likelihood of practicing preventative behaviors. Effective health communication strategies should be used to effectively disseminate health information during disease outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37846
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Health Belief Model
  • cross-sectional study
  • disease prevention
  • health communication
  • health information
  • health measure
  • public health
  • trust and mistrust


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