Effect of face-covering use on adherence to other COVID-19 protective behaviours: A systematic review

Adam Millest, Sidra Saeed, Charles Symons, Holly Carter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns were raised that face covering use may elicit risk compensation; a false sense of security resulting in reduced adherence to other protective behaviours such as physical distancing. This systematic review aimed to investigate the effect of face covering use on adherence to other COVID-19 related protective behaviours. Medline, Embase, PsychInfo, EmCare, medRxiv preprints, Research Square and WHO COVID-19 Research Database were searched for all primary research studies published from 1st January 2020 to 17th May 2022 that investigated the effect of face covering use on adherence to other protective behaviours in public settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Papers were selected and screened in accordance with the PRISMA framework. Backwards and forwards citation searches of included papers were also conducted on 16th September 2022, with eligible papers published between 1st January 2020 and that date being included. A quality appraisal including risk of bias was assessed using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Quality Criteria Checklist. This review is registered on PROSPERO, number CRD42022331961. 47 papers were included, with quality ranging from low to high. These papers investigated the effects of face covering use and face covering policies on adherence to six categories of behaviour: physical distancing; mobility; face-touching; hand hygiene; close contacts; and generalised protective behaviour. Results reveal no consistent evidence for or against risk compensation, with findings varying according to behaviour and across study types, and therefore confident conclusions cannot be made. Any policy decisions related to face coverings must consider the inconsistencies and caveats in this evidence base.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0284629
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume19
Issue number4 April
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

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