Why are men less likely to wear personal face masks?

There’s no denying that everyone can get infected with COVID-19 – no matter the age, gender, race, or health condition. However, as one of the studies revealed, men are more likely than women to believe that they won’t be affected by it, despite the fact that as Valerio Capraro from Middlesex University says, ‘official statistics show that actually coronavirus impacts men more seriously than women.’ Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

However, it doesn’t stop there. As you probably know, at the beginning of the pandemic, in most countries, the authorities have made wearing a face mask, such as the EN14683 Type IIR face mask, mandatory. However, as the number of cases started to decrease, they changed it from an obligation to a suggestion. What does it have to do with men?

Well, another study has found that men are also more likely to leave their personal face masks at home! Why? As a survey revealed, they believe it is ‘not cool,’ ‘shameful,’ and ‘a sign of weakness.’

Revelations of The New Study

A new study was performed by the researchers from Middlesex University in London and the Mathematical Science Research Institute located in Berkley, California, between April 28th and May 4th. Using the Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is a crowdsourcing website, to recruit the participants of the study, they gathered opinions of almost 2,500 people.

To be precise, they surveyed 2.459 people, of whom 1.266 were men, and 1.183 were women. 10 people decided not to disclose their gender. The participants were asked to rate how much they agree with the statements provided. 10 meant that they strongly agree, while 0 meant that they strongly disagree.

When they were asked whether wearing a mask is considered as ‘not cool,’ the men’s average answer was 5.03/10, while with women, it was 4.67. Men were also more likely to agree with the statements that “wearing a face covering is shameful,” “wearing a face covering is a sign of weakness,” and “the stigma attached to wearing a face covering is preventing them from wearing one as often as they should.”

This new study was presented in a paper titled “The effect of messaging and gender on intentions to wear a face covering to slow down COVID-19 transmission”. Apart from the fact that men are less likely to wear a face mask, it also found out that they are more willing to do so if where they live, the face masks are mandatory. As said by the researchers, ‘We find that men less than women intend to wear a face covering, but this difference almost disappears in counties where wearing a face covering is mandatory.’

The Reason Behind

As we already mentioned, one of the reasons men are less likely to wear a personal face mask might be because they don’t really believe that they will get infected with it – to put it simply, they are neglecting the fact that they can get infected with it.

On the other hand, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that women are more likely to view the COVID-19 as a ‘very serious health problem.’ It also reveals that women are more likely to comply with the activity-restraining rules, which include the closure of non-essential businesses and postponement of the elections, as well as the public-health measurements, which include mask-wearing and coughing into one’s elbow.

As the authors of the study write, “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.”

The Historical Evidence

The coronavirus pandemic is not the first situation of this kind. Between 2002 and 2004, Hong Kong has experienced the SARS outbreak, during which men were also less likely to wear face protection. This suggests that the reason behind this is not related to this particular situation, but has a more profound, psychological, or historical background.

As it was written in the 2014 literature review published in the Singapore Medical Journal, “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.”

Final Thoughts

After all of this being said, it is hard to disagree with the statement included in the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, that “We observe large gender differences in the individual perception regarding the seriousness of COVID-19 as a health problem in the respondent’s country.”

Men are less likely to wear a face mask because they think that it’s a sign of weakness. They are also more likely to neglect the fact that they can get infected with coronavirus – a viewpoint that several studies do not seem to support.

Could that be a sign of toxic masculinity? Probably. However, we will let you decide that for yourself.