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Men, young adults less likely to social distance, study finds

Oct. 7 (UPI) — More North American and European men and young adults of both sexes fail to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines than older adults in these regions, a survey published Wednesday in the journal PLOS found.

In the survey, conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Calgary in Canada, 59% of male respondents said they adhered to local social distancing guidelines, while 69% of female respondents reported doing so, the data showed.

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In addition, more women than men — 85% versus 71% — said they avoided socializing in person, as well as avoided leaving the home — 71% versus 59% — to help contain the spread of COVID-19, according to the researchers.

Meanwhile, 49% of adult respondents aged 18 to 24 years complied with guidelines for social distancing, while up to 90% of adults aged 25 and older did so, the researchers said.

“Results from the current study suggest that men are less adherent to social distancing recommendations compared to women,” the researchers wrote.

“This … may be explained by gender-specific differences in health information speaking behavior, where women are more likely to actively seek out and engage with health information,” the researchers said.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 2,013 adults who live in North America and Europe.

For respondents who did adhere to social distancing guidelines, wearing a face covering in public and working from home, a desire to protect others, at 86%, and wanting to protect themselves, at 84%, were the primary motivating factors, according to the researchers.

Living in countries with “strict” social distancing guidelines and personal experience with COVID-19 symptoms did not appear to influence compliance, the data showed.

Just over 65% of respondents in countries with strict rules reported complying with the guidelines, while 69% of those living in countries with “moderate” guidelines said they did so, the researchers said.

In addition, 64% of respondents who had symptoms of the virus at some point said they followed social distancing guidelines, compared with 68% of those who did not have symptoms, according to the researchers.

A study published earlier this week in the journal Behavioral Science and Policy also found that women were more likely than men to practice social distancing, wear face coverings in public and engage in routine hand-washing — all steps recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Adherence to social distancing behaviors that are within one’s control, such as avoiding non-essential travel, social gatherings or handshakes, was relatively high, yet not perfect,” they wrote.

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