11 September 2020

COVID-19: Risks perceived differently within the population and health instructions not uniformly respected in Quebec

With the approach of a potential and much feared second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec, CIRANO unveils the results of a study that takes stock of the perception of risks and compliance with health guidelines by the population in Quebec.


« The results of this study help explain the latest developments concerning the evolution of the pandemic in Quebec - young adults are less compliant with health instructions while declaring a higher risk of contracting the virus. In addition, Quebec City residents have a lower propensity to follow health guidelines, which may explain the recent increase in cases in this region. » explains Charles Bellemare, co-author of the study, professor at Université Laval and researcher at CIRANO.


The perceived risks associated with COVID-19 influence the important choices individuals make when dealing with the virus, including compliance with health instructions, the decision to go to the workplace, etc. « The results of this research will make it possible to anticipate the behaviour of different groups of people in anticipation of a second wave of IDVOC-19 and to make links between perceived risks (under or overestimated) and compliance with public health guidelines. » says Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin, co-author of the study, professor at Polytechnique Montréal and President and Chief Executive Officer of CIRANO.


Extremely dense in information, the CIRANO research report is based on a survey conducted between July 20 and 30, 2020 with a representative sample of 1502 Quebecers aged 18 to 70 years old. We provide here the most striking facts.


« Our results reveal that Quebecers have a poor understanding of the level of risk of contracting the virus and the complications arising from it, and that prevention behaviours vary according to various socio-economic indicators. For example, we note that respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 have a lower predisposition to follow the guidelines for gatherings, which seems to us to be quite worrisome.) » emphasizes Sabine Kröger, co-author of the study, professor at Université Laval and researcher at CIRANO.


Risks Perception

  • Respondents significantly overestimate the past risk of contracting the virus (the perceived risk of infection is 12 times higher than the objective risk for respondents in the Montreal and Laval regions, it is 309 times higher for respondents in the Lower St. Lawrence region).
  • Quebecers estimate that they have a high probability of contracting the virus within the next 6 months - exceeding 20% for the Montreal, Laval, North Shore and Northern Quebec regions.
  • Respondents with lower incomes, those living with disabilities, and those with risk factors associated with the virus have higher perceived risks of developing severe symptoms and dying from the virus.
  • Respondents who know someone who has contracted the virus believe that the past and future risks of contracting the virus are higher.
  • Young adults are the most likely to exaggerate their risk of contracting the virus, but they are also significantly more uncertain about their confidence in their risk estimate.
  • 40% of respondents indicated having at least one risk factor associated with IDVOC-19 (e.g., asthma, diabetes, obesity, etc.) and felt that they had higher past and future risks of contracting the virus. These vulnerable individuals are more protective (e.g., wearing masks, hand washing).


Prevention behaviours

  • Only 60% of respondents say they always wash their hands on the way home (including those with risk factors and those living with others).
  • Concerning the wearing of the mask (mandatory in public places closed since July 18, 2020), 30% of respondents say they always wear it when going out and 65% almost always. Only 4% declare wearing it only a few times, if ever.
  • 65% of respondents feel it is important that guidelines for gatherings are always followed.
  • Respondents in the Quebec City metropolitan area have a lower propensity to wash their hands and wear a mask than respondents in other areas.
  • Respondents testing positive for https://cirano.qc.ca/en/summaries/-19 have a lower predisposition to adhere to assembly guidelines.
  • On the other hand, respondents who know one or more people with IDVOC-19, have a higher predisposition to adhere to the gathering guidelines.
  • Men are more likely to not wash their hands on the way home, to not always wear a mask, and to not find it important to always follow assembly measures.
  • The elderly are more likely to always wash their hands on the way home, to always wear a mask, and to find it important that assembly measures are always followed.
  • Workers who travel to their workplace do not consider it important to adhere to assembly measures.


For more information

Consult the CIRANO Project Report (French only): Perceptions des risques et relance de l'économie en situation de pandémie de la COVID-19, Sabine Kröger, Charles Bellemare and Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin, September 2020, 2020RP-24


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