Study: Women More Likely to Embrace Behaviors Aimed at Preventing the Spread of COVID-19


Study shows that women have practiced preventive practices of physical distancing, mask wearing, and maintaining hygiene to a greater degree than men.

New research has found that women are more likely than men to follow the guidelines outlined by medical experts to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to researchers at New York University and Yale University.

The researchers reported that women have practiced preventive practices of physical distancing, mask wearing, and maintaining hygiene to a greater degree than men. Further, women were more likely to listen to experts and exhibit alarm and anxiety in response to COVID-19.

“Previous research before the pandemic shows that women had been visiting doctors more frequently in their daily lives and following their recommendations more so than men,” said lead study author Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in NYU’s Department of Psychology, in a press release. “They also pay more attention to the health-related needs of others. So it’s not surprising that these tendencies would translate into greater efforts on behalf of women to prevent the spread of the pandemic.”

The findings were based on 3 studies that employed various methodologies: a survey, on-the-street observations in different sites, and a county-level analysis of movement through GPS data from approximately 15 million smart phone coordinates, according to the study authors.

The researchers queried nearly 800 US residents using Prolific to ask respondents questions on topics such as keeping social distance, frequency of hand washing, and number of days of in-person contact with others. Women were more likely than men to report following these types of practices, with the differences being statistically significant.

In addition, women were more likely to listen to medical experts, their governor, and other countries’ experiences than men on deciding to what extent they distance themselves physically from others.

The second study observed a total of 300 pedestrians in 3 different US locations by zip code: New York City, New York (10012), New Haven, Connecticut (06511), and New Brunswick, New Jersey (08901). The researchers found a greater and statistically significant proportion of mask wearing among women than men, even though the gender distribution living in these zip codes was roughly equal, according to the study authors.

The final study compared overall movement as well as visits by men and women to nonessential retailers across US counties, including restaurants, spas, fitness facilities, and florists. The researchers analyzed aggregated GPS location data from approximately 3000 US counties and 15 million GPS smart-phone coordinates between March 9 and May 29. Further, the researchers took into account the fact that social distancing policies were instituted around mid-March and loosened toward the middle and end of April.

The results showed that tracked individuals in counties with a higher percentage of males showed comparatively less social distancing as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed between March 9 and May 29, as measured both by movement and by visits to nonessential retailers. The researchers considered the tracked sample as representative of a county’s overall gender breakdown in the analysis.

The study authors noted that their findings could have been driven by men and women holding jobs that differ; specifically, men could be more likely to hold jobs in certain sectors deemed essential and therefore exhibit greater movement. However, the results were unchanged when they controlled for counties’ percentage of workers in a long list of job areas, such as retail trade, mining, construction, and hospitality services, among others.


Women more likely to embrace behaviors aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. NYU. Published October 4, 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.

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