Who do not comply with the pandemic restrictions?
It is known since the emergence of coronavirus that the best way to treat an evolving pandemic is to convince people to take certain precautions until the vaccine is available. These include wearing face masks, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing. However, an effective communication strategy is needed so that the public truly follows these guidelines. As surveys show that the majority of people take social distancing recommendations into account, it is of crucial importance that public health campaigns are primarily targeted at those groups whose behaviour needs to be changed, as is emphasised by the authors of a recently published study.
Barnabás Szászi and his colleagues started their survey with the aim of demonstrating which social groups are the most likely to attend social gatherings during a pandemic period. So that this information could be used in health campaigns, they focused on the predictive factors of demographic data that are also available through most of the communication platforms (social media, TV, written press). Their research was focused on age, education, gender, and income.
The researchers used data from an online survey conducted during the early stages of the epidemic (between 20 March 2020 and 5 April 2020) and analysed responses given by 87,169 people in a total of 41 countries. The study used, among other things, the demographic data of the respondents and their answers to the self-report questionnaire whether they had attended social gatherings in the week preceding the questionnaire.
Summarising the responses, the researchers of the Institute of Psychology at the ELTE Faculty of Psychology and Education found that in 95 percent of the countries it was men who observed the social distancing regulations the least. Low levels of educational attainment (in 66 percent of countries) and low income (80%) were also positively correlated with non-compliance with the recommendations. In terms of age, young people (78%) were more likely to go into the community.
Researchers have also discovered that compared to other demographic factors,
higher income was the strongest predictor of avoiding social gatherings,
followed by age, education, and gender. This corresponds to previous research findings that have also demonstrated a correlation between income and appropriate behaviour. One possible explanation for these results is, however, not psychological, as those who earn less are often unable to work from home because of the nature of their jobs.
Since the individual variables painted a very diverse picture in different countries, researchers counsel policy-makers against simply generalising data on attitudes without being aware of the exact social context.
Although scientists admit that the evidence gathered in 2020 does not necessarily reflect people’s current attitudes, they believe it is important that their research findings may contribute to making public health campaigns more effective by tailoring messages to the habits and beliefs of the respective target groups. The article written by Barnabás Szászi, Nándor Hajdú, Péter Szécsi, Elizabeth Tipton (Northwestern University), and Balázs Aczél has been published in Scientific Reports