Men and women are approaching coronavirus precautions differently, and men may be worse off for it.
Women are less likely than men to put themselves at risk of catching COVID-19 because they’re more inclined to see the virus as a very serious health problem, and therefore more inclined to follow rules set as a result of the pandemic, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
The different attitudes may explain why women have shown less vulnerability to the virus and experienced less mortality compared to men, according to the international researchers from Bocconi University in Italy, Harvard Business School, and other universities.
People setting COVID-related health protocols may also need to create separate campaigns specifically aimed at men, if they want men to catch on, according to the researchers.
“Policy makers who promote a new normality made of reduced mobility, face masks and other changes should, therefore, design a gender-differentiated communication if they want to increase the compliance of men,” Vincenzo Galasso, one of the study’s authors, said in a written statement.
The researchers surveyed more than 21,000 respondents in the U.S., Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the U.K.
The gender differences were persistent across different sociodemographic characteristics and psychological factors, according to Paola Profeta, another of the study’s authors.
“The biggest differences between men and women relate to behaviors that serve to protect others above all, such as coughing in the elbow, unlike those that can protect both themselves and others,” Profeta said.
The differences in COVID-19 diligence were smaller among married couples who live together and likely share the same views, and among people most directly exposed to the pandemic, according to the study. The differences also decreased over time in cases where men and women were exposed to the same flow of information.
However, while women were more onboard with coronavirus protections than men, the study found that compliance with health protocols dropped with both men and women over time.
This isn’t the only study to find a difference between men’s and women’s responses to the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said that men needed more reminders about washing their hands than women.
Black and Hispanic people were also better about remembering hand-washing than white people, and older adults remembered more often than younger people, according to the CDC. Those findings applied both before and during the pandemic.