Sociology, Department of



Relationship between Sociodemographic Factors, Perceived COVID-19 Risk, and Engagement with Health Protective Behaviors

Date of this Version



Southern Medical Journal • Volume 115, Number 5, May 2022

DOI: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000001393

PMCID: PMC9042209


Objectives: This study describes the relationship between sociodemographic factors, chronic conditions, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) fears and stressors, and the perception of risk from COVID-19 and the use of health protective behaviors among Arkansans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Data collected from an online survey, administered in Arkansas between July and August 2020 (n = 1205), were used to estimate regressions. The data analysis was completed in April 2021.

Results:Wearing a face mask was the most commonly reported behavior (97.4%), followed by handwashing (97.2%). Protective behaviors increased with higher levels of fear (β = 0.030, P < 0.001), more stressors (β = 0.057, P = 0.002), and age (β = 0.006, P = 0.030). Female (β = 0.510, P < 0.001) and Black (β = 0.268, P = 0.039) respondents reported engaging in more protective behaviors than males or other races/ethnicities.

Conclusions: In future pandemic planning, there will be a need to create messaging and interventions to increase health protective behaviors directed at young adults, men, and those with lower education levels. Providers will need to address fears related to COVID-19 and help their patients to manage those fears and anxieties.