Gender differences in preventing the spread of coronavirus

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, Anton Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social distancing, handwashing, and mask wearing are key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, people vary in the degree to which they follow these practices. Previous findings have indicated that women adhere more to preventive health practices than men do. We examined whether this pattern held true for the COVID-19 pandemic by comparing women and men in three studies. In Study 1, women reported a greater degree of social distancing and handwashing. In Study 2, conducted in three different states in the northeastern United States, a greater percentage of women wore masks in public. In Study 3, anonymous county-level GPS data collected from approximately 15 million smartphones per day between March 9 and May 29, 2020, indicated that counties with a greater percentage of women exhibited greater social distancing. These data suggest that during pandemics, policymakers may benefit from disseminating preventive health messages that are purposely tuned to motivate adherence by men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-122
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral Science and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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