Patterns of social mixing in England changed in line with restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic (September 2020 to April 2022)

Louise E. Smith*, Henry W.W. Potts, Richard Amlȏt, Nicola T. Fear, Susan Michie, G. James Rubin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Social mixing contributes to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. We developed a composite measure for risky social mixing, investigating changes during the pandemic and factors associated with risky mixing. Forty-five waves of online cross-sectional surveys were used (n = 78,917 responses; 14 September 2020 to 13 April 2022). We investigated socio-demographic, contextual and psychological factors associated with engaging in highest risk social mixing in England at seven timepoints. Patterns of social mixing varied over time, broadly in line with changes in restrictions. Engaging in highest risk social mixing was associated with being younger, less worried about COVID-19, perceiving a lower risk of COVID-19, perceiving COVID-19 to be a less severe illness, thinking the risks of COVID-19 were being exaggerated, not agreeing that one’s personal behaviour had an impact on how COVID-19 spreads, and not agreeing that information from the UK Government about COVID-19 can be trusted. Our composite measure for risky social mixing varied in line with restrictions in place at the time of data collection, providing some validation of the measure. While messages targeting psychological factors may reduce higher risk social mixing, achieving a large change in risky social mixing in a short space of time may necessitate a reimposition of restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10436
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research programme. Surveys were commissioned and funded by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), with the authors providing advice on the question design and selection. LS, RA and GJR are supported by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency, King’s College London and
the University of East Anglia. RA is also supported by the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency and the University of Bristol. HWWP has received funding from Public Health England and NHS England. NTF is part funded by a grant from the UK Ministry of Defence. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, UK Health Security Agency, the Department of Health and Social Care or the Ministry of Defence.

All authors had financial support from NIHR for the submitted work; RA is an employee of the UK Health Security Agency; HWWP has received additional salary support from Public Health England and NHS England; HWWP receives consultancy fees to his employer from Ipsos MORI and has a PhD student who works at and has fees paid by Astra Zeneca; NTF is a participant of an independent group advising NHS Digital on the release of patient data. At the time of writing GJR is acting as an expert witness in an unrelated case involving Bayer PLC, supported by LS. All authors were participants of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or its subgroups.

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022

Citation: Smith, L.E., Potts, H.W.W., Amlȏt, R. et al. Patterns of social mixing in England changed in line with restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic (September 2020 to April 2022). Sci Rep 12, 10436 (2022).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-14431-3

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