Face-touching behaviour as a possible correlate of mask-wearing: A video observational study of public place incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Most countries in the world have recommended or mandated face masks in some or all public places during the COVID-
19 pandemic. However, mask use has been
thought to increase people's face-touching frequency and thus risk of self- inoculation.
Across two studies, we video- observed the face-touching behaviour of members of
the public in Amsterdam and Rotterdam (the Netherlands) during the first wave of
the pandemic. Study 1 (n = 383) yielded evidence in favour of the absence of an as-
sociation between mask-
wearing and face-
touching (defined as touches of face or
mask), and Study 2 (n = 421) replicated this result. Secondary outcome analysis of the
two studies—
analysed separately and with pooled data sets—
evidenced a negative
association between mask-
wearing and hand contact with the face and its t-
zone (i.e.
eyes, nose and mouth). In sum, the current findings alleviate the concern that mask-
wearing has an adverse face-
touching effect.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Number of pages7
ISSN1865-1674
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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