Preventive behaviour plays an important role in working together to gain control of the coronavirus. Healthy behaviour is also vital in staying healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. Research on behaviour and health provides insights on how to help people keep following behavioural rules – with a focus on their own health and the people around them.  

New study on behavioural measures and well-being

The measures taken by the government in the fight against the coronavirus have a major impact on the daily lives of everyone in the Netherlands. The government would like to know whether people can follow these rules, and what they think of them.

The corona crisis is also likely to affect how people feel. Are people feeling uncertain or worried about the future, or are they also having positive experiences in these times?
RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment and GGD GHOR (the Netherlands Municipal Public Health Services and Medical Assistance in Accidents and Disasters)  are therefore conducting a large-scale study on this topic.

Behavioural science

The World Health Organization (WHO) assigns an important role to behavioural science in the fight against pandemics, alongside other essential expertise in fields such as virology, epidemiology, and medicine. In line with this priority, RIVM is deploying scientific knowledge and expertise on human behaviour in a coordinated manner in the context of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. A special corona behavioural unit is aggregating, channelling and providing direct access to expertise to inform and support policy and government communication at the national and regional levels. By doing so, RIVM is utilising the vast wealth of knowledge and expertise on behaviour, psychology and health available in the Netherlands.

Communication and policy measures

The study focuses on how communication and policy during the pandemic affect knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, also looking at the environment in which preventive behaviour is expected. It also researches how people living in the Netherlands are doing (physically, psychologically and socially) and how that is changing over time under the influence of the coronavirus and COVID-19. In this context, RIVM is also exploring how policy measures affect psychology, behaviour and society in the longer term. Examples include loneliness and lifestyle, but also mental health and drug and alcohol use.

The study consists of various components.
•    Literature review
What are the latest findings in scientific research in the Netherlands and internationally? Current literature on behavioural science will be scanned to identify new insights for rapid application.
•    Survey
RIVM and GGD GHOR will be working with municipal public health services (GGDs) across the country to conduct a large-scale survey of the general population. The survey will ask questions about preventive behavioural measures, overall well-being (physical, social and mental), and how people access information. This survey will be repeated every few weeks throughout the pandemic.
•    Interviews
Interviews will be conducted to gain a better understanding of the survey results and to obtain insights from groups who are not easily reached to participate in the survey.
•    Social media monitoring 
Which public sentiments and opinions about behavioural measures are dominating the discussion on social media? And what can we learn from that with a view to improving policy and communication?
•    Accelerated in-depth research
Targeted research can also be conducted on a specific aspect with an accelerated timeline, opting for research methods that are appropriate to the question and the possibilities.
•    Knowledge integration
Insights from literature, from new research and from expertise provided by partner organisations will be combined to arrive at valuable knowledge for preventive behaviour and health measures. Lifestyle advice for home use is one of the products that resulted from knowledge integration.

Organisational structure

During corona, behavioural research initiated by RIVM is coordinated by a core team. This team consists of Dr Mariken Leurs, Prof. Marijn de Bruin, Dr Reint Jan Renes, Matthijs de Groot MSc (secretary) and Margriet Melis MSc.

The study is carried out by behavioural experts at RIVM, most of whom specialise in sociology and behavioural science. They are supplemented by research and communication experts from RIVM and beyond. Where necessary, they will receive support from a temporary Scientific Advisory Council to the Corona Behavioural Unit. All of the members of the advisory council are university professors who are not affiliated with RIVM.