Optimising public health physical distancing measures has been a critical part of the global response to the spread of COVID-19. Evidence collected during the current pandemic shows that the transmission rate of the virus is significantly reduced following implementation of intensive physical distancing measures. Adherence to these recommendations has been poorer than adherence to other key transmission reduction behaviours such as handwashing. There are a complex range of reasons that are likely to predict why people do not or only partially adhere to physical distancing recommendations. In the current project we aim to address the following research questions: (1) What are the psychosocial determinants of physical distancing for the general public and for key socio-demographic sub-groups (e.g., young adults, older adults, etc.)?; (2) Do current Government of Ireland COVID-19 physical distancing communications address the determinants of physical distancing?; and (3) How can communications be optimised and tailored to sub-groups to ensure maximum adherence to guidelines? These will be addressed by conducting three work packages (WPs). In WP1, we will work closely with the iCARE international study, which includes a large online survey of public responses to measures established to reduce and slow the spread of COVID-19, including physical distancing. We will analyse Irish data, comparing it to data from other countries, to identify the key psychosocial determinants of physical distancing behaviour. This will be followed by a qualitative study to explore in depth the barriers and facilitators of physical distancing behaviour among the Irish public (WP2). In WP3, we will conduct a content analysis and evidence mapping of current government messaging around physical distancing, to ensure the findings from this research feed into the development of ongoing communication and future messaging about physical distancing.


© 2020 Durand H et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Durand, H., Bacon, S., Byrne, M., Kenny, E., Lavoie, K., McGuire, B., McSharry, J., Meade, O., Mooney, R., Noone, C., O'Connor, L., O'Flaherty, K. & Molloy, G. 2021, 'Identifying and addressing psychosocial determinants of adherence to physical distancing guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic – project protocol', HRB Open Research, 3, article no: 58. https://doi.org/10.12688/hrbopenres.13090.2

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Last updated: 14 October 2022
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