A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the behaviors of different age groups in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The results, which were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), show that mask-wearing is up in general, but young people are the least likely to engage in measures such as maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others, covering their nose and mouth with a mask and washing hands with soap and water.
Conducted in three waves, the COVID Impact Survey included more than 6,000 online or telephone surveys of adults ages 18 and older during time points of April, May and June.
Among the 19 responses to the question, “Which of the following measures, if any, are you taking in response to the coronavirus?” three mitigation behaviors matching the CDC’s recommendations were assessed. They were: wore a face mask, washed or sanitized hands and kept six feet distance from those outside my household. Also chosen for analysis were three social mitigation behaviors tied to the Atlanta-based agency’s considerations and White House guidelines from March and April 2020. They were: avoided public or crowded places, canceled or postponed social or recreational activities and avoided some or all restaurants.
At each time point, more than 40% of all adults 18 and older self-reported they’d done all six mitigation behaviors. Those actions were most prevalent among adults 60 years and older and least prevalent for adults from age 18 to 29.
Across all survey waves, young adults reported engaging in fewer mitigation behaviors as opposed to older adults at all time points.
"Results are encouraging,” Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University told NPR. He was not involved in handling the survey. “But I wish they were better — especially among younger people,” he added.
Researchers noted that the results may indicate “that lower engagement in social mitigation behaviors among younger adults might be one possible reason for the increased incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases in this group, which began in June 2020.”
That growth came 4-15 days before the increases in cases in people 60 years and older, the researchers said.
“Better understanding of barriers and motivators associated with participation in mitigation behaviors is needed to effectively employ strategies that promote engagement of younger adults and others who are not currently engaging in mitigation behaviors,” they said. “Reaching these groups through targeted channels, trusted leaders, and influencers at national, state, and local levels has the potential to improve use and effectiveness of critical public health strategies to protect persons of all ages by preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”