Emerging Adults’ Adherence to Preventative Health Guidelines in Response to COVID-19

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adherence, COVID-19, emerging adults.



To examine rates of emerging adults’ (EA) adherence to preventative health behavior recommendations during early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and to investigate demographic (i.e., gender, years of education, socioeconomic status, school enrollment status, and living situation) and exposure and impact-related correlates of adherence.


Participants were 273 [M (SD) age = 22 (2.1) years, 55% female, 32% from minoritized groups] EA completed an online survey of adherence to 11 preventative health behaviors recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during summer 2020. Participants rated adherence via a visual analog scale. Participants also reported demographic information and completed the COVID-19 Exposure and Family Impact Adolescent and Young Adult Version (CEFIS-AYA).


Median levels of adherence to preventative recommendations ranged from 66% to 100%. Highest adherence levels (Mdn > 90%) were reported for quarantining if exposed to COVID-19; covering mouth when sneezing; avoiding the elderly/those at high risk; and avoiding large gatherings. Median adherence was <80% for mask wearing; maintaining a 6-foot distance; avoiding in-person visits with romantic partners or friends; and disinfecting surfaces. Female gender was the only variable significantly associated with overall adherence, and it explained 4% of the variance.


Following guidelines related to social distancing practices may be particularly challenging for EA, possibly because of unique developmental needs of this group, and males may be at greater risk for non-adherence to CDC recommendations. Therefore, public health messaging and adherence intervention development should be designed with males and social distancing practices in mind.