During the pandemic, various behavioural measures and recommendations were implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The RIVM Behavioural Unit researched people’s thoughts about the coronavirus measures, what motivated them to comply, and what the impact of those measures was. Part of that research is still active, even after the final coronavirus measures were discontinued in March 2023. The ongoing research focuses on people’s thoughts about the general recommendations to control respiratory infections. This includes washing hands and staying home if you are ill. The unit is also researching willingness to vaccinate. 

In doing so, we offer policy-makers and communication professionals insights that can contribute to supporting preventive behaviour during and after the pandemic. Various forms of research were use: 



The key lessons learned about compliance and support for specific measures during the COVID-19 pandemic are outlined in knowledge syntheses (only in Dutch). These documents focus on how compliance and support developed over time, which factors had relevant influence in those trends, and the differences between groups in Dutch society. 

Based on a literature review, the RIVM Behavioural Unit came up with an overview of effective interventions (only in Dutch) that could promote compliance with behavioural measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

RIVM worked with Populytics and Delft University of Technology (TUD) to research the preferences of citizens and civil society (including the healthcare sector, education and the events sector) for the long-term approach to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2022; only in Dutch).The study included the following questions:  

  • Which societal goals do people consider important? (Examples include maintaining access to care or preventing learning delays among children and adolescents.)  
  • Which COVID-19 measures are acceptable at which times?  
  • What preferences are present regarding decision-making about COVID-19 policy? 

Leading up to the holidays at the end of 2020 and 2021, RIVM used insights from behavioural research to support public communications in formulating recommendations for the national holidays. 

This memo (November 2020; only in Dutch) describes the extent to which people stayed home if they had a (possible) COVID-19 exposure and were advised to self-quarantine or self-isolate. And why did people still go outside in some cases, even if a recommendation to quarantine or self-isolate was applicable? We also looked at what could potentially motivate or help people to follow this recommendation. 

Overview (publications only in Dutch)