“Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma,” the authors of a new study write.
Simply put, men are more likely to think that wearing a mask is not manly enough, and this could be putting others at risk.
The study was carried by researchers at the Middlesex University London in the U.K. and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley, California — and it’s brimming with irony.
First, the researchers show that men are less likely than women to wear face masks — in areas where wearing a face covering is not mandatory. This is only where wearing masks isn’t mandated by law; in areas where it is mandatory, the gender differences are extremely small.
That’s not entirely surprising.
But researchers also found that men believe they are more likely to be unaffected by the disease, which goes completely against what the data is showing. Figures from China, Italy, Spain and New York City, to name just a few, show that men are substantially more affected than women.
At least a part of the reason why men are less likely to wear masks is because they associate it with negative feelings.
“We found that men more than women disagree with the statement “wearing a face covering is cool” and agree with the statements: “wearing a face covering is not cool” “wearing a face covering is shameful”, “wearing a face covering is sign of weakness”, and “the stigma attached to wearing a face covering is preventing [them]from wearing one as often as [they] should,” the study reads.
The results are consistent with a previous study which found that women are more likely to comply with public-health measures such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and coughing into one’s elbow.
“Our results may help to explain, at least in part, the gender differences that have emerged in mortality and vulnerability to COVID-19,” the authors wrote. “By being more careful and compliant with the rules indicated by the [World Health Organization] and by public authorities, women reduce the risk of being severely affected by COVID-19. Moreover, being more concerned, women may also be less reluctant than men to seek health care early on, when the first symptoms appear.”
In truth, this latest study is not the largest or more conclusive one. It surveyed a sample of 2,459 Mechanical Turk recruits, representative of people in urban areas, but not representative for the entire population. The average respondent also seemed to be relatively left-leaning.
It’s hard to say whether the noted effects would be more or less pronounced with a representative sample, but the takeaway is still concerning.
The study can nudge policymakers towards mandating the wearing of face masks or at least encourage them to work on ways to motivate more people to wear face masks.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.