By Ken Terry
~ August, 2021 ~ The dating behaviors of adolescents and young adults pose a challenge to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic because some young people prioritize their relationships over the risk of becoming infected and may not comply with recommended preventive measures.
“Recent research indicates that many [adolescents and young adults] are noncompliant or are inconsistent with adhering to these measures even when exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms,” says Yzette Lanier, PhD, an assistant professor at New York University’s College of Nursing, whose thoughts on the subject were published as a commentary in JAMA Pediatrics.
Nevertheless, romantic relationships are a key part of social development for these age groups, she writes, and it is crucial to find ways to enhance safety rather than discourage these romances or hamper their development.
Of course, the best way to ensure the safety of young people is to vaccinate them. But for a variety of reasons, Lanier points out, a large percentage of adolescents and young adults are unvaccinated. So public health messaging should focus on how to persuade them to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as mask wearing, in their romantic relationships.
Young people in ongoing relationships, should have conversations about how to protect one another.
“Engaging in COVID mitigation behaviors to protect one’s partner may be a way for partners to demonstrate their love for each other and their commitment to the relationship,” she said.
Safety agreements between romantic partners, Lanier proposes, might include not only getting vaccinated, but also a plan to have routine testing, to lessen close contact with other people, and to engage in preventive strategies such as mask wearing.
“Agreeing to adhere consistently to COVID-19 preventive measures can be a shared goal between partners that may add meaning to their relationship and increase their romantic bond,” the article says.
Lanier wrote the commentary several weeks ago, before the CDC in July re-tightened its preventive measures guidance for vaccinated people.
But as the number of COVID-19 cases rises again, Lanier tells WebMD, “many states and local jurisdictions have either reinstated COVID-19 control measures, like mask mandates, or are considering reinstating them. The CDC is also said to be considering these mandates. Considering these factors, consistent uptake of these measures among all adolescents and young adults still remains important, even with the availability of COVID vaccines.”