Barriers to and Facilitators of COVID-19 Prevention Behaviors Among North Carolina Residents

Health Educ Behav. 2022 Apr;49(2):231-241. doi: 10.1177/10901981221076408. Epub 2022 Feb 22.


COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020. Prior to the wide dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, individual prevention behaviors, such as wearing face masks, have been the primary non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce infections. We surveyed 404 North Carolina residents recruited through Amazon MTurk in July 2020 to assess adherence to key prevention behaviors (6-foot distancing, mask wearing, and gathering limits) and barriers to and facilitators of adherence. Participants reported past 7-day prevention behaviors and behavioral barriers and facilitators informed by the Integrated Behavior Model and the Health Belief Model (perceived risk, perceived severity, behavioral attitudes, injunctive and descriptive norms, and personal agency). Reported adherence to each behavior in the past 7 days was generally high, with lower adherence to 6-foot distancing and mask wearing in the work context. The most commonly endorsed barriers to 6-foot distancing included physical impediments, forgetting, and unfavorable descriptive norms. For mask wearing, ability to keep a distance, discomfort/inconvenience, and forgetting were most commonly endorsed. In logistic regression models, injunctive social norms followed by perceived personal agency were the strongest independent correlates of 6-foot distancing. Behavioral attitudes and injunctive social norms were independently associated with mask wearing. For gathering size limit adherence, perceived personal agency was the strongest independent predictor followed by perceived severity of COVID-19. Messaging campaigns targeting these barriers and facilitators should be tested. Interventions improving the convenience and salience of physical distancing and mask wearing in high-density public places and places of work may also promote prevention behaviors.

Keywords: COVID-19; North Carolina; masks; prevention; social distancing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Masks
  • North Carolina
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States


  • COVID-19 Vaccines