Health behavior adherence and emotional adjustment during the COVID-19 pandemic in a US nationally representative sample: The roles of prosocial motivation and gratitude

S. Katherine Nelson-Coffey, Mary M. O'Brien, Bailey M. Braunstein, Kristin D. Mickelson, Thao Ha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: Substantial health behavior change (e.g., social distancing, mask-wearing) is needed to slow COVID-19. Yet, adherence to these guidelines varies, and avoiding social contact may contribute to declines in emotional adjustment. Objective and Methods: Drawing on prior research linking social motives to health behavior and well-being, we investigated the associations among social motives (prosocial motivation, gratitude) and resilience to social distancing (health behavior adherence, emotional adjustment) in a US nationally representative sample (N = 1007) collected in April 2020. Results: Prosocial motivation, but not gratitude, correlated with health behavior adherence and social distancing practice. Conversely, gratitude, but not prosocial motivation, correlated with emotional adjustment (daily accomplishments, meaning in life, thriving, psychological distress, positive and negative affect). Analyses controlled for gratitude/prosocial motivation, self-focused motivation, COVID-19 worries, work arrangement, stay-at-home order, likelihood of COVID-19 diagnosis, and demographics. Conclusion: Public health campaigns focusing on the benefits of health behaviors for others, rather than just oneself, may promote adherence and emotional adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114243
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume284
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Gratitude
  • Health behavior
  • Prosocial motivation
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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