Background: This study aimed to explore the effect of knowledge, COVID-19-related perceptions, and public trust on protective behaviors in Turkish people. Methods: Data were collected from an online survey (Turkish COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring) conducted between July 2020 and January 2021. The recommended protective behaviors (hand cleaning, wearing a face mask, and physical distancing) to prevent COVID-19 were examined. The impacts of the following variables on protective behaviors were investigated using logistic regression analysis: knowledge, cognitive and affective risk perception, pandemic-related worry content, public trust, conspiracy thinking, and COVID-19 vaccine willingness. Results: Out of a total of 4210 adult respondents, 13.8% reported nonadherence to protection behavior, and 86.2% reported full adherence. Males and young (aged 18−30 years) people tend to show less adherence. Perceived self-efficacy, susceptibility, and correct knowledge were positively related to more adherence to protective behavior. Perceptual and emotional factors explaining protective behavior were perceived proximity, stress level, and worrying about the relatives who depended on them. Trust in health professionals and vaccine willingness were positive predictors, while conspiracy thinking and acquiring less information (<2, daily) were negative predictors. Unexpectedly, trust in the Ministry of Health showed a weak but negative association with protection behavior. Conclusions: Perceived stress, altruistic worries, and public trust seem to shape protection behaviors in addition to individuals’ knowledge and cognitive risk perception in respondents. Males and young people may have a greater risk for nonadherence. Reliable, transparent, and culture-specific health communication that considers these issues is required.
Keywords: COVID-19; behavior; conspiracy theory; perception; preventive measures; trust; worry.