American Student’s Risk Perception and Protective Behavior Against Covid-19


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American University Students’ Engagements in Social Media, Risk Perceptions, and Adoption of Protective Behavior During Covid-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial interactions in all spheres of life globally. The rapid spread of the disease has brought about panic among members of society and interrupted their economic activities. The high incidence rate of the disease across all population groups has compelled state and federal governments to develop preventive measures to reduce its spread and promote safety among members of society (Haffajee & Mello, 2020, p. 75). Healthcare providers, in collaboration with government agencies and other administrative organizations, have implemented diverse strategies to raise public awareness concerning how the virus spreads, its primary symptoms, and ways through which members of society could avoid contracting COVID-19. Public awareness has been established as the ultimate strategy for managing emotions, behaviors, and perceptions developed by members of society during the pandemic (Chen et al., 2020). To reduce the social and economic implications of the pandemic, the United States government has been partnering with various public health stakeholders to enhance knowledge among members of society concerning COVID-19 infection transmission mechanisms, prevention and self-care strategies, populations at risk, and the community’s role in the prevention and management of COVID-19. As a result, successful implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures is observed to depend on people’s ability to find and utilize credible health information to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVI-19.

Governmental agencies and healthcare providers have utilized diverse channels to raise COVID-19 awareness among members of the United States society. Among such strategies include the use of social media to disseminate information concerning the pandemic to shape people’s risk perceptions and influence their capacity to implement protective measures against COVID-19. According to Stellefson et al. (2020), the use of social media in medical education and healthcare has been critical to effective collaboration between healthcare providers and members of society in the fight against diseases. The number of healthcare organizations and professionals who engage in social media continually increased during the COVID-19 pandemic (Chan et al., 2020). Governmental organizations and healthcare providers’ preference on social media is based on the platform’s capacity to engage a member of society and transform their perceptions regarding the disease while eliminating any disinformation that could otherwise expose them to increased risk of contracting the virus (Katz & Nandi, 2021, p. 25892). The number of social media users has also grown exponentially over the years, making social media a reliable channel to engage members of society. Statista Research Department (2022) states that more than 223 million members of the United States society use at least one social media network. Due to its popularity among members of society, social media was implemented as a tool to raise COVID-19 awareness in the United States.

However, the effectiveness of social media as a tool to shape risk perceptions and the adoption of protective behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic has been observed to vary among different population groups. Although the strategy has significantly enhanced health literacy among members of society, it is not clear whether all population groups have accrued health benefits due to the increased use of social media as a public sensitization tool by governmental agencies and healthcare providers. The use of social media channels as sources of health information among university students in the United States has particularly captured the attention of policymakers. Youths constitute the largest proportion of social media users in the United States (Goodyear et al., 2018). However, most youths use social media as a source of entertainment and a medium to communicate with friends and relatives (Anderson & Jiang, 2018, p. 1673). As a result, many American university students may not use social media to seek information concerning COVID-19 prevention and management. Moreover, the preference for various social media networks has been observed to vary with age. Therefore, a misalignment between choosing a social media network as a public sensitization tool by healthcare organizations and university students’ preferred networks may impede access to information concerning COVID-19 prevention measures.

Predisposition to COVID-19 varies with age, health status, and occupation. Since most university students are young and have no underlying conditions, they constitute one of the population groups with the least incidence rates of advanced cases of COVID-19. As a result, American university students may fail to utilize information from governmental agencies and healthcare organizations concerning COVID-19 prevention since they do not fear contracting the virus (Roberts & David, 2021, p. 23218). However, some students may be afraid of contracting the virus and spreading it to their loved ones who might be at risk of developing severe symptoms (Elhadi et al., 2020). Therefore, it is unclear whether American university students’ engagement in social media significantly impacts their risk perceptions and willingness to adopt protective behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study seeks to investigate how the increased use of social media as a tool to raise COVID-19 awareness in the United States has impacted risk perceptions and the adoption of protective behaviors among American university students. The study seeks to address the following objectives specifically:

  1. To identify the most popular digital platforms American students use to access Covid-10 information.
  2. To identify the association between risk communication and protective behavior against Covid-19 transmission among students.
  3. To identify the association between risk perception and protective behavior against Covid-19 transmission among students.
  4. To identify the association between community engagement and protective behavior against Covid-19 transmission among students.


Haffajee, R. L., & Mello, M. M. (2020). Thinking globally, acting locally—The US response to COVID-19. New England journal of medicine382(22), 75.

Chen, H., Xu, W., Paris, C., Reeson, A., & Li, X. (2020). Social distance and SARS memory: impact on the public awareness of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. MedRxiv

Stellefson, M., Paige, S. R., Chaney, B. H., & Chaney, J. D. (2020). The evolving role of social media in health promotion: Updated responsibilities for health education specialists. International journal of environmental research and public health17(4), 1153.

Chan, A. K., Nickson, C. P., Rudolph, J. W., Lee, A., & Joynt, G. M. (2020). Social media for rapid knowledge dissemination: early experience from the COVID‐19 pandemic. Anesthesia

Katz, M., & Nandi, N. (2021). Social media and medical education in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: scoping review. JMIR Medical Education7(2), 25892.

Statista Research Department. (2022). Share of U.S. population who use social media 2008-2021.

Goodyear, V. A., Armour, K. M., & Wood, H. (2018). Young people and their engagement with health-related social media: New perspectives. Sport, education, and society

Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research Center31(2018), 1673-1689.

Roberts, J. A., & David, M. E. (2021). Improving predictions of COVID-19 preventive behavior: Development of a sequential mediation model. Journal of Medical Internet Research23(3), 23218.

Elhadi, M., Msherghi, A., Alsoufi, A., Buzreg, A., Bouhuwaish, A., Khaled, A., Alhadi, A., Alameen, H., Biala, M., Elgherwi, A., Elkhafeefi, F., Elmabrouk, A., Abdulmalik, A., Alhaddad, S., Khaled, A., & Elgzairi, M. (2020). Knowledge, preventive behavior and risk perception regarding COVID-19: a self-reported study on college students. The Pan African Medical Journal35(Suppl 2).

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