Kings College London and Ipsos Mori have conducted a survey of people in the UK to gauge their attitudes to the wearing of face masks and other precautionary measures against COVID-19.
Dr Sebastian Korb, Department of Psychology, University of Essex, said:
“The wearing of face masks is unlikely to bear any health risks – rather the opposite, since it can reduce the spread of covid-19. Nevertheless, the wearing of face masks might have some unintended consequences on human interactions, resulting in more difficult communication.
“For example, masks make it harder to understand each other’s emotions, as they hide smiles and other facial expressions. Moreover, by pressing on our cheeks, masks may interfere with our tendency to mimic other people’s expressions – a behaviour believed to contribute to emotion recognition.
“Hopefully, we will compensate by becoming better at other ways to communicate emotions and intentions to each other, for example through gestures and body posture.”
Dr Nilu Ahmed, Lecturer in Social Sciences, Senior Tutor, Bristol Dental School, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Bristol, said:
“This large survey provides key insight into attitude changes across the population since the start of lockdown. Encouragingly, we see that people are showing a greater sense of social responsibility, prioritising the collective fight against coronavirus above individual freedom and choice through supporting and wearing face masks in public spaces.
“In April, less than 1 in 5 people wore a mask, now 7 out 10 people do, this means that it has joined the list of regular precautionary behaviours we take to combat coronavirus. Encouragingly, almost 8 out 10 people are prepared to wear masks long term to tackle the issue.
“Whilst much of the findings are positive, they also indicate key differences between groups. The difference in mask compliance across different age and ethnic groups is concerning. The message of mask wearing that has reached the general population, needs to now be targeted to reach young people who may be asymptomatic and therefore at risk of unknowingly spreading coronavirus; and also minority groups to avoid further exacerbation of risk factors from coronavirus in BAME communities. The research also shows that young people and BAME communities are getting a large amount of their information about coronavirus from social media and WhatsApp. More work is needed to ensure that all communities have equitable access to reliable and accessible information.”
Report – “Becoming “Covid-secure”: how the UK is getting used to wearing face masks and other precautionary behaviours”
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