COVID-19 - Coronavirus disease 2019

COvid-19: Prevention Measures and Representations of Infection and Risk in the General Population – COMPRI

Submission summary

Since Covid-19 was first discovered in China and the WHO confirmed its human-to-human transmission, the French population has been kept informed by the media regarding the progression of the epidemy ‘til its arrival and development in France. Messages on the nature of individual prevention measures and good practices to put in place to stop the progression of the disease were communicated multiple times per day.
Despite the fact that this disease is creating an unprecedented health crisis, it appears that the general population has, overall, not fully embraced the prevention measures against Covid-19. This could be due to a lower risk aversion related to this specific disease, a misunderstanding of the prevention measures, or the messages themselves which may have been unclear or contradictory. Many hypotheses are possible and it is therefore important to understand the mechanisms underlying people’s behaviours during this public health crisis. That is why the objective of this study will be to provide information on the general population’s representations of the epidemy and of the disease, as well as their perceptions of the risk and of the prevention measures for themselves and others, and understand the factors that influenced them.
Many humanities and social sciences studies have shown that risk is a social construct. Because there are multiple risks, it is difficult to apprehend them all at the same time. Individuals rank those risks not through a simple calculation but based on criteria that involve their own values, norms and beliefs which, in turn, allow them to apprehend the risk and act accordingly. However, our cultural and social background determines these values, norms and beliefs and thus orient representations and behaviours. Elements of belief persist in our collective psyche, even in so-called rationalistic societies. Anthropology and sociology help us go beyond the mere observation of individuals’ irrationality to better understand the foundations on which they rely to act.
The field work that we are doing is made up of two phases. The first is taking place during the epidemy and the second at a later time. The first phase is divided into two tasks: a survey using a questionnaire administered to the Constances cohort, and a longitudinal qualitative study using exploratory phone interviews carried out throughout the confinement period. Phase 2 will construct a questionnaire based on the results of Phase 1, which will be administered to the Constances cohort.
Our results will provide scientific inputs for the authorities’ reflections on actions and argumentations for prevention measures and how to implement them in future crisis situations. The study method which includes both socio-anthropological and epidemiological approaches as well as the creation of a qualitative cohort, is largely transferable to other crisis situations. Our findings, in particular the identification of mechanisms of erosion or reinforcement of adequate behaviours regarding prevention measures, will have a scope that goes beyond the Covid-19 epidemy. They will serve as a basis transferable to other epidemic situations.

Project coordination

Maria Teixeira (Epidémiologie clinique et évaluation économique appliqué aux populations vulnérables)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ECEVE Epidémiologie clinique et évaluation économique appliqué aux populations vulnérables

Help of the ANR 180,360 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: June 2020 - 12 Months

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