Publication in: Spring 2023 Issue

A Qualitative Exploration of Socioeconomic Status’ Impact on Mask Wearing Behaviors During the COVID-19 Mask Mandate
Mikaela Fullerton
Health and Wellness
Faculty Mentor(s):
Fabrice Julien
Abstract / Summary:
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in lifestyle changes and challenged the public to cooperate towards the goal of slowing the spread. While it is known that wearing a mask significantly reduces the risk of contracting the disease, still, there was significant pushback against the government implemented mask mandate. The aim of this study was to identify and understand the student perspective on the decision-making process of masking. The study also explored if and how socioeconomic status might influence these decisions. Using qualitative methods, this study involved 24 students from a small liberal arts institution in the southeastern United States. Students were recruited to take part in the study through study flyers containing contact information for the study and the sponsoring university lab. An additional number of students who were enrolled in the university's Research Methods in Health and Wellness Promotion class took part in the study as part of an experiential learning activity. Demographic data was anonymously collected from each participant prior to the start of each interview. Primary data was collected through semi-structured focus groups and in-depth one-on-one interviews. Data triangulation efforts were present as observers and note-takers took part in the data collection process. All interviews were recorded and transcribed using the NVivo software. Interview transcripts were then coded for the identification of themes. The results from this research suggest that while most respondents held reservations about the regulations, they believed that the masks were effective and thus complied with the mandate. The results also demonstrate that decisions and opinions vary drastically among participants due to personal reasons, that include socioeconomic background. These findings have important implications that demonstrate health decision making can be complex for college-aged students.
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