A new study has revealed insights into why some people refuse to wear face masks – with one surprising excuse the most common.
A new study has revealed insights into why some people refuse to wear face masks – with one surprising excuse the most common.

Reason why Aussies won’t wear masks

They've been hailed as a key tool in the fight against coronavirus but despite evidence that masks both protect and prevent the virus' spread not everyone is convinced.

New research has found that while most Australias agree with wearing a mask there is a sizeable percentage that don't.

The main reason given? Anti-maskers aren't convinced the face coverings actually work in stopping COVID-19.

For the research, media intelligence company Isentia analysed more than 1000 conversations on social media from July 1 to August 3.

Anti-mask protesters attempt to demonstrate at Victoria’s state parliament earlier this month. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Anti-mask protesters attempt to demonstrate at Victoria’s state parliament earlier this month. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

While their social media analysis found that 73.5 per cent of posts were positive about the wearing of masks, 20.5 per cent disagreed with wearing or making them mandatory.

The main reason given was that they were unsure about their effectiveness, with 49.4 per cent dubious that masks worked.

The next excuse given was concern that rights were being violated by making masks mandatory, with 18.8 per cent of anti-maskers viewing their dissent as rebellion against the government.

Another reason given was doubts about how bad coronavirus was, with 8.6 per cent of dissenters sceptical that the disease was dangerous.

Isentia's Australia and New Zealand insights specialist Andrew Ledovskikh said that more than a third of social media posts they analysed contained "highly emotional and abusive language".

"Face masks are a hot topic across social media platforms right now, with many Aussies having quite strong, visceral reactions to the issue," he said in a statement.

"About 35 per cent of the conversations analysed by Isentia exposed highly emotional and abusive language which either encouraged others to wear a mask or criticised and openly called out anti-maskers."

Face masks are becoming a way of life in places like Sydney. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Face masks are becoming a way of life in places like Sydney. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

WHY THE DEBATE ON MASKS?

Conflicting advice at the start of the pandemic has seen confusion over the wearing of masks to prevent coronavirus spread.

Wearing masks has become a political issue in countries like the United States and even Australia where there have been several high-profile cases of people refusing to wear masks.

In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was only necessary to wear a mask if you had coronavirus, were a health worker or caring for someone with the virus.

But since then several countries have made masks mandatory and studies have shown they are effective at preventing droplets from spreading.

WHO's experts have reviewed their original advice and in June recommended masks be made compulsory in areas of high coronavirus transmission.

In the early months of the pandemic the Australian Government advised against wearing masks but they have now been made mandatory in Victoria as the state grapples with a second wave of cases.

In NSW, masks are strongly recommended but not law, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying they should be worn in places where it is difficult to socially distance such as on public transport or in supermarkets.

Masks are also recommended in places of worship and for people working in customer service roles.

The advice on face masks has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Picture: Damian Shaw/NCA NewsWire
The advice on face masks has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Picture: Damian Shaw/NCA NewsWire

Monash University head of medicine Professor Mark Wahlqvist told news.com.au last month that "the value of wearing masks is clear".

"It was recognised (early) that the virus could behave in aerosol form through human discharge and especially in polluted atmospheres," Prof Wahlqvist said.

"It was, and is therefore, necessary to use masks to protect ourselves and others.

"The advice in Australia has been muddled because this has not been communicated and it is becoming clear that this was because of short supply at first and then the misrepresentation that masks would be of limited value."

But microbiologist Dr Manal Mohammed said the "science is complex" around face masks and more research needed to be done.

"Ideally, we need randomised controlled trials involving many people from an entire population to trace how masks affect infection numbers," she wrote in The Conversation.

"That said, other scientists argue that we should use face masks even though perfectly reliable evidence is lacking - to be on the safe side.

"Ultimately though, without a vaccine, the strongest weapons we have are basic preventive measures such as regular hand washing and social distancing."

Originally published as Reason why Aussies won't wear masks



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