Predicting physical distancing in a representative sample of Canadians

People physically distanced while queuing
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Predicting physical distancing and physical activity in a representative sample of adult Canadians

Team members

  • Alex Lithopoulos
  • Ryan Rhodes
  • Sam Liu

About this project

This project’s goal was to identify who was adhering to the physical distancing measures put in place by the Canadian government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What led to this project?

The research team saw the need to understand how people responded to official health guidelines during the pandemic.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers collected information from 1055 adults in Canada using an online questionnaire.

Project findings

  • The research team found that people who thought that physical distancing was an effective way of protecting against the virus were more likely to follow the government recommendations.
  • Participants who felt that the COVID-19 pandemic was a major threat tended to follow the recommended guidelines more closely.
  • They also found that older adults and women were more likely to follow the rules put in place by the government.

What can we learn from this study?

The team has established that it is important that the government creates a communication strategy to reach specific populations that are more resistant to following public health guidelines.

How can you use this research?

Leaders can use the results of this project to find better ways of reaching men, young people and people with less education when communicating official public health recommendations.

The researchers also noted that the government can plan a communication strategy that aims to increase the perceived threat, in this case of COVID-19 and its effects, and the efficacy of measures put in place to mitigate the threat.

Web resource

Behavioural Medicine Lab COVID-19 research web page


  1. Lithopoulos, A., Zhang, C.Q., Liu, S., & Rhodes, R.E.(2021). Predicting physical distancing in the context of COVID-19: A test of the extended parallel process model among Canadian adults. Canadian Psychology, Online First, 1-9.