Pandemic boredom: Little evidence that lockdown-related boredom affected risky public health behaviors across 116 countries


A variety of public officials have expressed concern that policies mandating collective public health behaviors (e.g., national/regional “lockdown”) may result in behavioral fatigue that ultimately renders such policies ineffective. Boredom, specifically, has been singled out as one potential risk factor for non-compliance. We examined whether there was empirical evidence to support this concern during the COVID-19 pandemic in a large cross-national sample of 63,336 community respondents from 116 countries. Although boredom was higher in countries with more COVID-19 cases and countries that instituted more stringent lockdowns,such boredom did not predict longitudinal within-person decreases in social distancing behavior(or vice versa; n=8031)in early spring and summer of 2020. Overall, we found little evidence that changes in boredom predict individual public health behaviors(handwashing, staying home, self-quarantining, avoiding crowds) over time, or that such behaviors had any reliable longitudinal effects on boredom itself. In summary,contrary to concerns,we found little evidence that boredom posed a public health risk during lockdown and quarantine.