Men are more reluctant to wear face masks , study reveals

Men are more reluctant to wear face masks , study reveals
  • Men appear to be more severely impacted by the virus: In places such as China, Italy, Spain and New York City, men have died from COVID-19 at far higher rates than women did.

Men in the United States  report are less likely to wear face coverings, especially in counties that don’t make it mandatory, according to a paper authored by researchers from Middlesex University London in the U.K. and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif. 

This, the authors say, suggests that making face coverings mandatory “has a larger effect on men than on women.”

Men are also less likely to believe they’ll be seriously impacted by COVID-19, despite data to the contrary, the research found. “The fact that men less than women intend to wear a face covering can be partly explained by the fact that men more than women believe that they will be relatively unaffected by the disease,” co-authors Valerio Capraro and Hélène Barcelo wrote.

This finding is “particularly ironic,” they said, as men appear to be more severely impacted by the virus: In places such as China, Italy, Spain and New York City, men have died from COVID-19 at far higher rates than women did.

The study also found that men are more likely to report feeling negative emotions while wearing a face covering. 

“Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma; and these gender differences also mediate gender differences and intentions to wear a face covering,” Capraro and Barcelo wrote. 

That finding, they said, indicates that interventions to promote men’s use of face-coverings work to decrease those emotions.

How the research was conducted

The study’s sample of 2,459 Amazon Mechanical Turk recruits was “quite heterogeneous” and representative of people in urban areas, but not representative overall, the authors wrote: Men were “slightly overrepresented” (51% vs. 48% women), while people aged 25 to 54 and white people were overrepresented, and the average respondent seemed to be relatively left-leaning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend that everyone wear a cloth face covering (and not a medical-grade mask meant for a health-care worker) over their nose and mouth when they go out in public.

Historic precedent: 

Women were reportedly more likely to wear face masks during both the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong and the H1N1 outbreak, according to a 2014 literature review published in the Singapore Medical Journal. 

(In at least two other studies included in the review, meanwhile, gender did not appear to play a role in mask-wearing behavior.)

“With regard to gender, it has been postulated that women are generally less willing to take risks, and are thus more compliant with preventive behavior than their male counterparts,” the authors wrote.