Attitudes Towards Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Do people of varying age groups look at wearing a face mask differently?

From the start of the currently ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, facial coverings have been a contentious issue in the United States. Although health officials have unanimously agreed that wearing a mask will help to reduce the transmission of the disease, many have refused to wear them.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended wearing at least a cloth face covering since last March, citing evidence that they are an important tool in infection control along with social distancing and other measures.

Moreover, infectious disease organizations have consistently urged a national mask policy to address the varying mask mandates all over the country. A letter was written and signed in August by physicians from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA). In the letter, they urged that a national message was critical if we wanted to allow schools and other public spaces to open.

Recently, investigators from Texas A&M University have conducted a study that looked at differences of attitude towards face masks in young and older populations. They sought out to understand whether those who knew someone who was affected by COIVD-19 impacted their attitudes towards safety measures like mask wearing.

The team conducted an e-survey of 310 participants put into 2 groups. The first group was the Younger Group (YG) and the second was the Older Group (OG). Those in YG were under the age of 25 (n=123), while those in OG were older than age 25 (n=187).

Results from the study found that during the early months of the pandemic, the frequency of mask wearing was 52% for YG and 63.1% for OG. After 12 weeks, the frequency increased to 82.1% and 95.1%, respectively. While the OG group wore them at a higher rate, it was not statistically significant. With the introduction of a loved one who was impacted by COVID-19, both of the groups behaved differently, with a frequency of 53.46% and 76.96%.

The findings demonstrate that younger populations wore face masks at lower frequencies, and that knowing someone who was positive with the virus reinforced wearing a mask in the older population but not in the younger population.