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A qualitative study examining young peoples’ perceptions and adherence to COVID-19 public health guidelines in Ireland

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posted on 2023-10-02, 09:09 authored by Tara M. Breslin, Rose GalvinRose Galvin, Aoife Marie ForanAoife Marie Foran, Orla MuldoonOrla Muldoon

Background Public health measures are the main intervention to stop the spread of COVID-19. They rely on the adherence to everyday health behaviors, and depend on those at high and low personal risk of serious disease to comply. Young people are crucial to stemming community transmission, and are often living in shared housing and at a stage of their lives with more economic uncertainty than older groups. Public health messaging has relied on the mantra that we are ‘in it together,’ despite very diverse experiences of the pandemic across diferent groups. The central aim of this research is to understand and optimize young peoples’ engagement with public health guidelines with the view to improve future adherence with public health initiatives.

Method Twelve young people were interviewed as part of this research, ranging from 18 to 24 years. Interviewees were chosen to ensure that there was a diverse range of opinions within the participant pool. Interviews were semistructured with open questions and the fexibility to explore the topics of interest that arose. All interviews were fully transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results This study found that participants deemed the consequences of lockdown a greater threat than infection with SARS-COV-2. Participants expressed concerns about the government’s handling of the pandemic. Some felt young peoples’ interests were not represented by authorities. There were concerns that messaging was inaccurate, diffcult to understand, and flled with statistical and medical jargon. These perceptions underpinned a sense that the guidelines could be broken in good conscience as well as result in accidental breaches of the guidelines. Though wider community factors were often cited as having a positive infuence on health behavior, differences and division were seen to inspire trust or adherence.

Conclusion These fndings provide an insight into the psychological, fnancial and physical difculties young people face as a consequence of pandemic public health measures and lockdowns in particular. They highlight the need for better communication with young people to support and embed trust in authorities and the scientifc and political community.



BMC Public Health, 2023, 23, 1864



Other Funding information

This study was funded by the Health Research Board Ireland Summer Student Scholarship 2021 (SS-2021–081).

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  • (3) Good Health and Well-being

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  • Allied Health
  • Psychology

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