Is my risk lower than yours? The role of compared risk, illness perceptions, and self-efficacy as determinants of perceived risk for COVID-19

Document Type


Source of Publication

Health Risk & Society

Publication Date



Risk perception is a psychological construct influenced by the available information about specific illnesses or conditions and several psychosocial variables. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand people´s perceptions about the illness and their subsequent behaviour. In the present study we aimed to assess risk and illness perceptions about COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic in a community sample and to assess whether illness perception dimensions, dispositional optimism, compared risk and perceived self-efficacy are predictors of individual risk perception for COVID-19. The participants were 549 Portuguese adults not infected by COVID-19 who completed an online survey. Our findings showed that individual and compared risk perceptions about COVID-19 were high as well as concern, negative emotional representation, and perceived consequences. The predictive model showed that 54% of the variance of the perceived individual risk was explained by compared risk, followed by concern, emotional representation, and self-efficacy. These findings highlight the importance of comparative risk (unrealistic comparative optimism) in the formation of individual risk perception. Social comparison can be an important factor for risk perception and the adoption of protective behaviours for COVID-19.


Taylor & Francis


Medicine and Health Sciences


Risk perception, Illness perception, Self-efficacy, Unrealistic comparative optimism, COVID-19

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access