Depression and anxiety are relatively common among college students and research suggests that risk perceptions may be modulated by these mental health conditions. In addition, studies have demonstrated that higher perception of risk predicts more frequent practice of preventative health behaviors, and this relationship may also be modulated by depression and anxiety. The present study examined the relationship between these factors in the context of COVID-19. Using survey data from undergraduate students, risk perceptions about COVID-19, self-reported practice of COVID-19 preventative behaviors, and their relationship were compared between those with and without the common mental health conditions of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Results indicated that risk perceptions predicted self-reported use of preventative health behaviors across groups, and those with MDD and/or GAD had relatively greater affective than cognitive risk perceptions related to COVID-19. Critically, however, those with MDD and/or GAD did not show enhanced self-reported use of preventative health behaviors to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. In addition, mental health condition status did not modulate the relationship between risk perception and preventative health behaviors. Together, these findings suggest that while affective risk perceptions related to COVID-19 may be elevated in college students with common mental health conditions, perceived risk does not translate into behaviors that will reduce their risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Lighthall, Nichole


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences





Access Status

Open Access

Release Date