Pandemics can generate considerable distress, which can affect prevention behaviors. Resilience may buffer the negative effects of distress on engagement in relevant prevention behaviors, which may also hold true for COVID-19 prevention behaviors. The objective of the current study was to evaluate whether resilience moderated the relationship between distress and COVID-19 prevention behaviors early in the pandemic.
Data were collected via surveys in which all students at a large midwestern university were emailed invitations beginning March 18, 2020. Surveys were completed by 5,530 individuals. In addition to demographic questions and items about COVID-19 prevention behaviors, distress was assessed using the K6 Distress Scale and resilience using the Brief Resilience Scale. Data were analyzed using moderator regression analysis.
Resilience moderates the effects from distress to prevention behaviors, such that the relationship was stronger for individuals with higher resilience than for individuals with lower resilience. When resilience was one standard deviation below the mean, at the mean value of resilience, and when resilience was one standard deviation above the mean, there was a significant positive relationship between distress and COVID-19 prevention behaviors. However, the relationship was strongest for those with high resilience, and lowest for those with low resilience.
In the current sample, resilience appeared to influence the strength of the relationship between distress and COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Having higher resilience may promote positive adaptation to distress, leading individuals to engage in a greater number of disease-related prevention behaviors. Future research should examine this relationship longitudinally and in relation to differing constructs of resilience.