Workers experiencing job and financial insecurity are less likely to follow the guidelines for Covid-19, such as physical distancing, limiting trips from home and washing hands, say researchers.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, revealed that a scarcity mindset can play a role in how well people are able to focus on responding to the pandemic.
“The extent to which economic stressors will impact that behaviour is in part a function of where we live,” said study author Tahira Probst from Washington State University in the US.
“Having a fall back, a strong safety net to catch you, seemed to help mitigate the risk factors of job insecurity that was otherwise associated with less adherence to the guidelines,” Probst added.
The researchers, who surveyed 745 workers in 43 states, also found that state unemployment benefits and Covid-19 policies affected the connection between economic concerns and compliance with the Covid precautions.
In states with lower unemployment benefits, job insecurity was associated with a seven per cent decline in compliance with Covid-19 prevention behaviours.
State-imposed Covid-19 mandates also had a positive effect on compliance, but seemed to primarily benefit the financially secure workers more.
In states that had fewer restrictions on behaviour that could spread the disease, workers were less likely to follow the CDC’s recommendations, whether the respondents were financially secure or insecure.
However, in states with a stronger response, including measures such as stay-at-home orders and shutting down non-essential businesses, financially secure employees had 13 per cent higher enactment of the prevention behaviours compared to workers who felt more financially insecure.
These differences could have significant public health ramifications, the authors argue, since research suggests that even modest reductions in social contacts among adults can reduce infection and eventual death rates.
“This is a red flag since precarious work and financial strain can also co-occur with other Covid-19 risk factors and pre-existing health disparities,” Probst noted.