No evidence that mask-wearing in public places elicits risk compensation behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic
Associate professor Lasse Liebst and associate professor Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard contributed to Scientific Reports with the article 'No evidence that mask-wearing in public places elicits risk compensation behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic' in collaboration with Peter Ejbye-Ernst, University of Amsterdam, Marijn de Bruin, Radboud University Medical Center and Josephine Thomas, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement.
Face masks have been widely employed as a personal protective measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, concerns remain that masks create a false sense of security that reduces adherence to other public health measures, including social distancing.
This paper tested whether mask-wearing was negatively associated with social distancing compliance. In two studies, the authors combined video-observational records of public mask-wearing in two Dutch cities with a natural-experimental approach to evaluate the effect of an area-based mask mandate. The authors found no observational evidence of an association between mask-wearing and social distancing but found a positive link between crowding and social distancing violations.
The natural-experimental analysis showed that an area-based mask mandate did not significantly affect social distancing or crowding levels. The results alleviate the concern that mask use reduces social distancing compliance or increases crowding levels. On the other hand, crowding reduction may be a viable strategy to mitigate social distancing violations.
Liebst, L.S., Ejbye-Ernst, P., de Bruin, M. et al. No evidence that mask-wearing in public places elicits risk compensation behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sci Rep 12, 1511 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-05270-3.
The article is open access and available at nature.com.