Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted with 1049 South Korean adults in April 2020. Respondents were asked about receiving COVID-19 misinformation using 12 items identified by the World Health Organization. Logistic regression was used to compute adjusted odds ratios (aORs) for the association of receiving misinformation with sociodemographic characteristics, source of information, COVID-19 misinformation belief, and psychological distress, as well as the associations of COVID-19 misinformation belief with COVID-19 knowledge and the number of COVID-19 preventive behaviors among those who received the misinformation. All data were weighted according to the Korea census data in 2018.

Background: Online misinformation proliferation during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a major public health concern. Objective: We aimed to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 misinformation exposure and beliefs, associated factors including psychological distress with misinformation exposure, and the associations between COVID-19 knowledge and number of preventive behaviors.

Conclusions: COVID-19 misinformation exposure was associated with misinformation belief, while misinformation belief was associated with fewer preventive behaviors. Given the potential of misinformation to undermine global efforts in COVID-19 disease control, up-to-date public health strategies are required to counter the proliferation of misinformation.

Results: Overall, 67.78% (n=711) of respondents reported exposure to at least one COVID-19 misinformation item. Misinformation exposure was associated with younger age, higher education levels, and lower income. Sources of information associated with misinformation exposure were social networking services (aOR 1.67, 95% CI 1.20-2.32) and instant messaging (aOR 1.79, 1.27-2.51). Misinformation exposure was also associated with psychological distress including anxiety (aOR 1.80, 1.24-2.61), depressive (aOR 1.47, 1.09-2.00), and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (aOR 1.97, 1.42-2.73), as well as misinformation belief (aOR 7.33, 5.17-10.38). Misinformation belief was associated with poorer COVID-19 knowledge (high: aOR 0.62, 0.45-0.84) and fewer preventive behaviors (≥7 behaviors: aOR 0.54, 0.39-0.74).


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Cite as

Lee, J., Kang, K., Wang, M., Zhao, S., Wong, J., O'Connor, S., Yang, S. & Shin, S. 2020, 'Associations between COVID-19 misinformation exposure and belief with COVID-19 knowledge and preventive behaviors: cross-sectional online study', Journal of Medical Internet research, 22(11), article no: e22205. https://doi.org/10.2196/22205

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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