US men see masks as sign of weakness, less likely to wear them despite reducing Covid-19 risk: Study
American men have a problem with masking up. They are more likely to step out without face coverings than women, according to a new study. The reason boils down to the fear of looking uncool and weak.
"Men more than women agree that wearing a face-covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma," the authors wrote in their study. What is more, these men think they are less likely to develop a severe infection even as data shows that the virus hits men harder. One study found that men are more than twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than women, regardless of age.
According to experts, face masks could help slow down the spread of the virus. Despite that, a few American leaders, including President Donald Trump, have refused to wear one so far. Men may have a "false sense of security" when it comes to the coronavirus, Dr Akiko Iwasaki, from Yale University, told the New York Times.
Recently, a US reporter recounted how a man harassed her and others for donning a mask. She tweeted: "One man says: It’s submission, it’s muzzling yourself, it looks weak - especially for men.” She added that the man accused them of fear-mongering.
Men may not engage in preventive behaviors as much as women do, previous studies have suggested. Even during the SARS outbreak, women were more likely to use masks. So, in this study, the team set out to see if the same holds with protective face masks. In addition to that, the team wanted to understand what was driving this gender difference. They carried out an online experiment on 2,559 people living n the US.
"Our pre-registered analysis of gender differences revealed a number of interesting results. Men less than women intend to wear a face covering. This is true, especially in counties where wearing a face covering is not mandatory," the authors wrote in their study. However, they add, their study suffers from a limitation: slight overrepresentation of men. The study also comprised of more white people.
Top US leaders are not wearing masks
On 14th May, Trump was in the news for visiting the Pennsylvania medical equipment distribution center without a mask. Earlier, he toured another mask production facility in Arizona without wearing one. Even Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Coronavirus Task Force, came under fire for defying hospital rules: visiting the Mayo clinic without a protective mask. The Minnesota-based clinic has asked every staff, patient, and visitor needs to wear a mask on its premises.
But mask could bring down infection rates
In a preprint study, researchers make a case for face covering. The researchers predicted that infection rates could drastically fall if 80% of the population wear masks — even if they are made at home. And countries might witness even better results if they adopt universal face-masks early in the outbreak. The study could explain why East Asian countries, where masks are a norm, are doing a lot better.
Commenting on the study, William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told Vanity Fair: "It supports a notion that I advocate along with most other infectious disease experts: that masks are very, very important."