Background: The COVID-19 pandemic hit Italy much harder than South Korea. As a way of explaining the different impact in the two countries, this study examines the moderating role of social support on the relationship between perceived susceptibility and preventive behaviors in the two countries. Methods: Surveys were conducted in South Korea (n = 1396) and Italy (n = 487) of participants aged 50 to 89 years. Results: South Koreans felt higher levels of perceived social support than their Italian counterparts. As would be expected, greater perceived susceptibility was associated with increased preventive behavior. Furthermore, a significant three-way interaction effect was found for perceived susceptibility, social support, and country. For Italians, a person who feels him/herself highly susceptible will increase preventive behaviors, if there is a lot of social support. On the other hand, for South Koreans, those with a low level of susceptibility perform more preventive measures than people with a high level of susceptibility if there is a lot of social support. Conclusions: This study provides insights into how cognitive factors, such as susceptibility and severity, as well as social and environmental factors can be taken into account, and the public be told the real risk and given behavioral guidelines when a pandemic is approaching. Given the critical role of social support as a coping mechanism in crisis situations, societies should mull over ways to increase emotional and instrumental support.
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- Preventive behavior
- Social support