Men more than twice as likely as women to avoid masks

A new study recommends public health guidance target men, who are less likely to comply with face-covering rules.

Date: 18 February 2022

Men are far less likely to wear face coverings than women, and governments should consider targeted interventions to promote male mask-wearing, a new study has found.

Published in journal Psychology & Health, the research showed 50% of men did not always wear face masks where required, such as using public transport, visiting shops or supermarkets, being in enclosed public spaces, or being in public spaces where you came into contact with people they do not normally meet. In comparison, only 20% of women did not always wear face masks in these same situations.

The authors tested an intervention, designed to highlight the positives of wearing masks and strategies that might make people more likely to remember to put on masks where they are required. They found that believing your friends and family think wearing a mask was important increased the likelihood of participants wearing a mask where required.

Dr Dom Conroy, co-author of the study and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at London Metropolitan University said, "There may be many reasons why people don’t follow mask wearing guidance. However, thinking from a health promotion context, it is useful to consider ways in which health communication messages might encourage individuals to wear face coverings where required, above and beyond communicating that these are legally mandated and that non-compliance carries penalties, such as fines."

"Our findings are useful because they help think about 'behaviour change interventions' used to promote COVID-19 protective behaviours, such as wearing face coverings, and what motivates people to comply with the desired behaviours. 

"Interventions designed to target intentions and subjective norms concerning the wearing of face coverings may elicit behaviour change.

"Our findings also point to who might be usefully targeted in public health communications about wearing face coverings every time this is needed. Focusing health messages at male Transport for London commuters - for example to "man up, and wear a face covering" - may be the most effective strategy to improving overall compliance."