Many Americans reported lying about COVID-19 to others, including whether they were sick or taking safety measures, new study says.
Many Americans have admitted to lying about COVID-19.
The lies include misleading others about whether they were sick and if they were following recommended public health guidance to reduce the spread of the virus, according to the study published Oct. 10 in JAMA Network Open.
The most common reasons 42% of Americans reported telling lies included desiring to feel “normal” and wanting to “exercise personal freedom,” the researchers found.
In the study, 1,733 adults in the U.S. were surveyed from Dec. 8 to Dec. 23. During this time, the coronavirus omicron variant had recently emerged and the country’s COVID-19 death toll exceeded 800,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The toll stands at more than 1 million deaths as of Oct. 13.
Study participants responded to a list of nine COVID-19 related behaviors they may have lied to others about. About 4 in 10 of those surveyed — 721 participants — said they had misled others about at least one of the listed behaviors, the research found.
“Some individuals may think if they fib about their COVID-19 status once or twice, it’s not a big deal,” Dr. Angela Fagerlin, senior study author from University of Utah Health, said in a news release.
“But if, as our study suggests, nearly half of us are doing it, that’s a significant problem that contributes to prolonging the pandemic,” Fagerlin added.
COVID behaviors people lied about
The most common COVID-19 lies included whether a person was actually following virus safety measures or breaking quarantine rules, according to the research.
Other common behaviors, according to the study, include:
Not telling someone they were about to see in person that they may have had COVID-19, or did have it.
Not mentioning they may have had COVID-19, or did have it, when visiting a doctor or public place.
Saying they were vaccinated when they weren’t.
Saying they weren’t vaccinated when they were.
Telling someone they did not need to quarantine when they did.
Avoiding taking a COVID-19 test.
Study co-author Dr. Alistair Thorpe, also of University of Utah Health, said in a statement the results reveal how likely people will “be honest in the face of a global crisis.”
Additional answers study participants gave for lying about COVID-19 included:
“It’s no one else’s business”
“I didn’t want someone to judge or think badly of me”
“I wanted to exercise my freedom to do what I want.”
“I didn’t think COVID-19 was real.”
The research revealed individuals younger than 60, and those who have a higher distrust of science, are more likely to take part in untruthful behavior and not follow medical advice in relation to COVID-19.
Overall, about 60% of study participants reported going to a doctor for COVID-19 treatment and asked for guidance on public health measures, according to the release.
The study did not find a pattern between those who lied about COVID-19 and their personal political and religious beliefs.
Researchers noted one study limitation was the possibility of study participants being dishonest about the answers they gave, given the nature of the survey.
“When people are dishonest about their COVID-19 status or what precautions they are taking, it can increase the spread of disease in their community,” Dr. Andrea Gurmankin Levy, another study author and a social sciences professor at Middlesex Community College in Connecticut, said in statement.
Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.