Exactly two years into the pandemic, and many of the restrictions that were forced upon us are gradually starting to ease. Our favourite places are open, we can visit our beloved family and friends, gradually get back to the office and lastly international travel is opening up again. With the excitement of getting ‘back to normal’, comes some questions, with one of the biggest daily impacts of the Coronavirus, the wearing of face masks.
Though perhaps not a legal requirement anymore in England and Wales, we are still seeing many people wear them. We were keen to find out where people stand on the wearing of masks, at this stage, and so we commenced a YouGov survey to delve deeper into the thoughts of the general public.
As many of you will be aware, AirPop masks have been around since long before we’d even heard the word COVID, their use primarily to protect from pollution in cities. Having lived through the last two years though, will the higher uptake of mask use continue over the coming months? If so, why - what are the key drivers for continuing to wear a mask - protecting yourself? protecting the vulnerable? - these were the questions we were keen to get feedback on.
Our survey, looking at consumer thoughts and behaviours reached over 1000 people across the UK, targeting adults in the key cities of London, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and Birmingham.
General Face Mask Behaviour
Firstly we wanted to ascertain the overall thoughts on face mask use. Only 25% of respondents reported that they are no longer wearing a mask as it’s no longer in the rules to, 5% don’t wear a mask as they disrupt their breathing, with 3% saying they’ve never worn one. So 72% of our respondents are wearing a face mask because they want to, let’s delve into that.
55% of respondents said they wear a mask because they care about others, interestingly this figure increases to 63% in the 18-24 age bracket - breaking the general myth that it is younger people that are most adverse to wearing masks. 32% of respondents say that they wear it as an outward sign that they care about others. 40% of people stated they wear a mask because they are worried about catching Coronavirus, and slightly above that at 41% because they’ve recognised the other health and wellbeing benefits.
The Elderly and Vulnerable
During the pandemic, it has been widely documented that our elderly and vulnerable people are most at risk, with harrowing headlines regarding deaths in care homes and in hospitals, especially in the earlier months of lockdown.
As a caring nation, unsurprisingly over 85% of people under 25 years said they would always or likely wear a face mask when in close proximity to the elderly or vulnerable. 30% would always wear a face mask, 35% would be extremely likely to wear one, and a further 22% likely to wear one.
With the wearing of face masks no longer required in shops, in England and Wales, what are thoughts about wearing them in those places?
60% of people said they would always or were likely to wear a face mask while shopping at a retail or grocery store to protect themselves. This increases to over 50% in the over 55s. On average, just under 20% of all age groups said they would wear a mask in a shop if it made others feel comfortable, highest among the youngest respondents.
What about in the workplace? As we are aware some professions and key workers such as our hard working nurses and doctors still have to wear them, others perhaps in offices don’t have to. It has been widely documented that the wearing of face masks has made some people really think about what they are breathing in before having to wear one, be it pollution, dust, potential pathogens etc, and this may change their behaviour going forward.
The results are more evenly distributed when it comes to wearing masks at work, perhaps with people feeling they are more able to socially distance themselves, or are mixing with less people. However the interesting finding is that 32% of people would wear a mask in the workplace to make others feel comfortable. 24% said they would occasionally wear a mask at work to protect themselves and less than 13% said they would never wear a mask at work.
Public transport generally involves large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, and though not the law, it is one area where the government still recommends the wearing of face masks to minimise the spread of the virus.
The findings from the survey revealed 54% of people will always wear a mask on public transport, with 24% saying they wear it to make others feel comfortable. This latter figure increases to an astonishing 69% in the 18-24 age group, again showing the empathy of young adults in wanting others to feel comfortable.
Bars, Restaurants and Shops
One of the things we missed the most during lockdown was socialising with family and friends, and out with houses, this tends to take place at restaurants and bars. What are feelings towards mask wearing in these venues, where you are choosing to go for leisure, as opposed to work or the grocery store.
We broke the questioning on this into two sections - face mask use by employees in those venues and mask use by customers.
The stand out figures regarding employees wearing face masks were that 58% of people aged 55+ feel that the employer is taking care of their customers and 40% feel that they are taking care of their staff. Again showing that an important factor is care of other people rather than just themselves.
When it comes to other customers wearing masks in the establishment, nearly half of people said they feel more protected and comfortable and 38% said they would be more likely to revisit the venue.
Another important point to pick up here is that 0% of 18-24 years olds said it was unnecessary for people to wear face masks in bars, restaurants and shops (compared to 16% of 40-54 year olds).
Having broken down mask use in the various areas, we wanted to look into which elements of pandemic enforced behaviour our respondents would be continuing with in the future. Of the six behaviours listed - social distancing, wearing face masks, frequent handwashing, avoiding crowded spaces, regular testing and increasing ventilation, wearing face masks was rated second only to handwashing. Over 60% of respondents stated that they planned to wear a face mask in the future.
Confirming the data drawn from the initial questions, when looking into where the respondents planned on wearing masks going forward, by far the highest category was on public transport (77%), followed by indoor crowded environments - hospitality such as bowling, cinema, restaurants and malls (47%) and sporting events and concerts (44%).
The pandemic has affected some people terribly, losing loved ones, not seeing family for months/years, losing jobs and many struggling mentally across the age ranges. In fact, over 50% said it will have a lasting effect on them emotionally, and 20% physically. Financial impact through job loss, furlough or future uncertainty has been a major factor, and 20% of respondents said it will continue to affect them financially. Interestingly, 19% stated the pandemic had not affected them and 16% said it had actually had a positive impact on them and their lifestyles - things like working from home, spending more time with the family and perhaps ‘resetting’ and allowing them to see what is most important to them.
It is clear from the survey results that the pandemic really has changed our behaviours and affected our thoughts about the future.
It is evident that even with the lifting of restrictions and the world gradually returning to the new normal, in general people still plan to protect themselves and others by wearing face masks, especially on public transport and in crowded indoor places and when in close proximity to the elderly and vulnerable.
With this long-term planned use, it becomes imperative to invest the time and money into a comfortable and sustainable option. AirPop provides a wide range of quality assured face masks for both adults and children, with award winning features and design.
From the Which Best Buy awarded Pocket Mask, to the Original and colourful kids mask, all our masks are designed around leak free comfort, advanced filtration and easy breathing. Washable and recyclable, they are an environmentally friendly sustainable option as well.
At the heart of our company is a global online community, where millions of people and thousands of political, cultural and commercial organizations engage in a continuous conversation about their beliefs, behaviors and brands.
For more information visit: www.yougov.co.uk