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Evaluating COVID-19 Public Health Messaging in Italy: Self-Reported Compliance and Growing Mental Health Concerns

By Soubhik Barari, Stefano Caria, Antonio Davola, Paolo Falco, Thiemo Fetzer, Stefano Fiorin, Lukas Hensel, Andriy Ivchenko, Jon Jachimowicz, Gary King, Gordon Kraft-Todd, Alice Ledda, Mary MacLennan, Lucian Mutoi, Claudio Pagani, Elena Reutskaja, Christopher Roth, Federico Raimondi Slepoi

Posted 30 Mar 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.27.20042820

PurposeThe COVID-19 death-rate in Italy continues to climb, surpassing that in every other country. We implement one of the first nationally representative surveys about this unprecedented public health crisis and use it to evaluate the Italian government public health efforts and citizen responses. Findings(1) Public health messaging is being heard. Except for slightly lower compliance among young adults, all subgroups we studied understand how to keep themselves and others safe from the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Remarkably, even those who do not trust the government, or think the government has been untruthful about the crisis believe the messaging and claim to be acting in accordance. (2) The quarantine is beginning to have serious negative effects on the populations mental health. Policy RecommendationsCommunications should move from explaining to citizens that they should stay at home to what they can do there. We need interventions that make staying following public health protocols more desirable, such as virtual social interactions, online social reading activities, classes, exercise routines, etc. -- all designed to reduce the boredom of long term social isolation and to increase the attractiveness of following public health recommendations. Interventions like these will grow in importance as the crisis wears on around the world, and staying inside wears on people.

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