| Erfurt Laboratory for Empirical Research, Faculty of Philosophy, Knowledge, Spaces, and Media, Research

Pandemic fatigue in adolescents and young adults: Recommendations for communication measures

On behalf of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), researchers at the University of Erfurt - Constanze Rossmann, Anne Reinhardt and Winja Weber from the Department of Communication Studies - conducted two online surveys on the topic of pandemic fatigue among adolescents and young adults. The aim of the survey was, on the one hand, to identify the causes of pandemic fatigue among younger people and to formulate behaviourally effective messages on this basis, and, on the other hand, to find out how best to reach the target group in order to develop communication strategies for addressing adolescents and young adults in Germany to promote Corona-related protective readiness. The results and resulting recommendations are now available.

The Corona virus has been accompanying people's everyday lives for more than a year now. Multi-wave studies show that for some time now a certain "pandemic fatigue" has been observed in the German population, which manifests itself in less motivation to comply with the recommended protective measures. This particularly affects younger people. "For this reason, in addition to adequate regulatory measures, it is necessary to establish effective crisis communication to the young target group," Professor Constanze Rossmann explains the background of the current research. "And because the effectiveness of communication measures depends on numerous factors, theory- and evidence-based planning is essential to achieve the envisaged goals." To this end, the researchers first developed a theoretical model to explain the protective behaviour of young people and tested it empirically in two sub-studies in order to derive behaviourally effective message content. This was supplemented by an accessibility analysis of the target group and a systematic literature research on the effectiveness of different forms of message presentation. Specifically, the theory of planned behaviour was used as a theoretical starting model. It shows both which factors influence behaviour and which ideas underlie these factors. The model was combined with other theories relevant in the crisis context so that it also integrates risk perception and knowledge. Using a combination of methods from a partially standardised online survey of 89 young adults and a subsequent standardised online survey of 984 people aged 14 to 29, the decisive behavioural determinants and their preferred media channels were identified. A systematic literature review also examined which forms of appeal are suitable for addressing the young target group.

Constanze Rossmann: "Our results show that the willingness to comply with protective measures among 14- to 29-year-olds in Germany depends primarily on three factors: their risk perception, their knowledge and their instrumental attitude. The following ideas turned out to be particularly relevant: the sooner young people perceive that by implementing the measures (1) they can protect themselves, (2) they can contain chains of infection and thus the virus, and (3) they can show others that they take the pandemic seriously in the sense of self-presentation, the stronger their behavioural intention. The analyses also show that the intention also increases when adolescents and young adults assess their own illness with the Corona virus as more serious. This finding is also reflected in the knowledge about the virus: Here, especially the false knowledge that Corona is only like the flu has a negative effect on the behavioural intention. With regard to accessibility planning, the findings of the standardised online survey indicate that 14- to 29-year-olds in Germany should be addressed in particular via digital media channels, especially social media (e.g. WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube)."

From the systematic literature review, it can also be deduced that fear appeals and loss frames are likely to be suitable for promoting Corona-related protective behaviour among young target groups under certain conditions - especially if they are combined with factual information, positive messages as well as clear recommendations for action in order to counteract potential reactance reactions. It is also beneficial to present the message content in narrative form, whereas the use of humorous appeals in the context of COVID-19 is not advisable.