Smith, Louise E;
Fear, Nicola T;
How have patterns of social mixing changed during the pandemic? A series of cross-sectional nationally representative surveys.
OSF Preprints: Charlottesville, VA, USA.
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. Twenty-eight waves of online nationally representative cross-sectional surveys were used (n=47,933 responses; 14 September 2020 to 10 August 2021). We investigated socio-demographic, contextual and psychological factors associated with engaging in highest risk social mixing at six 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 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.
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