Wearing a face covering in public is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Still, not everyone is wearing one. A new study offers some insight into why.
"In particular, just by looking around, it was quite obvious that maybe there were some gender differences," said Valerio Cabraro, a researcher with Middlesex University in London.
Cabraro teamed up with the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley, California to survey roughly 2,500 people, half men and half women, about wearing a face covering out in public.
"We did find men are less likely than women to state that they wear a face covering anytime they leave the home, when engaged in essential activities and when around people outside the house," said Cabraro.
When asked their reasons for not wearing a mask, a few answers stood out.
The survey showed clear gender differences in the answers, with more men stating that wearing a face covering was shameful or a sign of weakness.
"Wearing a face covering is a sign of weakness, wearing a face covering is shameful and the stigma associated with wearing a face covering is preventing me from wearing one," said Cabraro.
The survey also found men are more likely than women to think they will not be affected by the coronavirus. Whether wearing a mask or not, psychologists say seeing other people out in public who are not wearing a mask can affect how safe you feel.
"I think there’s kind of a fear of individuals feeling vulnerable having a perception of being in fear by wearing a mask, that wearing a mask does for some people resemble I’m afraid, I’m vulnerable," said Dr. Apryl Alexander, a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Denver.
Alexander says most people have spent the last 60 days at home, missing important events or milestones in their lives, and are eager to get back to normal. This desire to move on from this sense of loss can affect whether people feel inclined to wear a face covering while out in public.
"If I see people not wearing masks, for me that communicates, ‘Do you care about my safety and my wellbeing and the safety of people here?’” said Alexander. “And then I think for some people they might think, ‘Well is it safe? Is this all blown out of proportion? Is the danger not really there, that this person feels comfortable not wearing a mask?’"
Alexander says she hopes both men and women adhere to the CDC guidelines about wearing masks out in public and that the exhaustion they feel from having to quarantine doesn't give them a false sense of safety during this time.