Research Snapshot: Adherence to social distancing measures during COVID-19

What you need to know

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, governments have put physical (social) distancing measures in place. Researchers conducted a web-based survey of Canadian adults to determine the key factors related to following physical distancing measures. These factors include:

  • adequate social support
  • trust in the government’s management of COVID-19
  • psychological factors, including:
    • risk and germ aversion
    • not believing one is infected with COVID-19
    • belief in holistic health
    • greater belief that they are responsible for their own success or failure.

 

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, "Modifiable Factors of Social Distancing Adherence: A COVID-19 Study” which is currently being considered for publication. Read it below or download the PDF.

A webinar entitled "Factors of physical (social) distancing adherence during the COVID-19 pandemic" will be held on this topic on August 24, 2020. Register for the webinar. 

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about?

Physical distancing measures may continue to be needed to contain the spread of COVID-19, especially since a second wave of the virus is expected. However, the public’s adherence to physical distancing will likely weaken as the pandemic persists. Many factors, such as perception of the virus and types of physical distancing measures, have an impact on our decision to follow guidelines.

What did the researchers do?

In May of 2020, researchers conducted a web-based survey of Canadian adults aged 18 years or older, measuring how well people were following physical distancing restrictions. The researchers collected social, psychological, sociodemographic and clinical information to assess perceptions of COVID-19 and physical distancing.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers analyzed the data from 1019 participants broadly representative of the Canadian population with respect to age (average 46 years) and gender (50% female).

The findings show that:

How can you use this research? 

This study identified special populations that may benefit from targeted public health interventions. It also outlined potential factors that may be important to address to help the public follow physical distancing measures. Recommendations include the provision of consistent, understandable, and transparent messaging around COVID-19 and public health interventions that include promoting social support services, addressing specific health beliefs, and enhancing health knowledge and awareness.

Suggested Public Health Interventions:

Limitations and next steps

The researchers noted some limitations to web-based surveys and research participation. Canadian adults without access to or familiarity with computers are not represented. Individuals who participate in research are also often more conscientious and willing to sacrifice their time, which may introduce bias in the sample.

Keywords

COVID-19; Coronavirus; Panedmic; Social distancing; Physical distancing; Infection prevention; Adherence

About the researchers

Philip Gerretsen1,2, Julia Kim2, Eric E. Brown1, Lena Quilty1, Samantha Wells3,4, Fernando Caravaggio1, Marcos Sanches5, Branka Agic4,6, Bruce G. Pollock1,2, Ariel Graff-Guerrero1,2

  1. Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, CAMH, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics, CAMH, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  6. Provincial System Support Program (PSSP), CAMH, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, "Modifiable Factors of Social Distancing Adherence: A COVID-19 Study” which is currently being considered for publication.

 

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