Full text

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13322-6 10.1186/s12889-022-13322-6


Background: COVID-19 public health measures like handwashing and social distancing can help stem the spread of the virus. Adherence to guidelines varies between individuals. This study aims to identify predictors of non-adherence to social distancing and handwashing guidelines. Methods: A cross-sectional weekly telephone survey was conducted over eight weeks (11/06/2020–05/08/2020). The sample included adults resident on the island of Ireland (75:25 split between ROI and NI). Data were collected on demographics, threat perceptions, fear of COVID-19, response efficacy and self-efficacy, response cost and social norms, COVID-19 behaviours, mood, loneliness, and self-reported health. Results: 3011 participants were surveyed. Handwashing non-adherers were more likely to be male (OR: 5.2, 95% CI: 2.4 – 11.3), to have higher levels of loneliness (OR: 1.86, 95% CI: 1.1 – 3.1), and higher perceptions of handwashing costs (OR: 3.4, 95% CI: 2.2 – 5.2). Those reporting rarely engaging in social distancing were more likely to be members of lower socioeconomic groups, to be younger (OR: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.96 – 0.98), male (OR: 1.67, 95% CI: 1.1 – 2.5), healthcare workers (OR: 1.98, 95% CI: 1.1 – 3.4), to report lower mood (OR: 1.72, 95% CI: 1.3 – 2.2), were less likely to live in households with people aged under-18 (OR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.6 – 0.9), and to have lower fear of COVID-19 (OR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.6 – 0.9). Conclusions: Non-adherers to handwashing differ to social distancing non-adherers. Public health messages should target specific demographic groups and different messages are necessary to improve adherence to each behaviour.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Cite as

Dempster, M., O’Connell, N., Graham, C., O’Connor, C., Zgaga, L., Burke, E., Mather, L., Nicolson, G., Barry, J., Scally, G., Nolan, A., Tobin, K., Crowley, P. & Darker, C. 2022, 'Non-adherence to COVID-19 containment behaviours: results from an all-Ireland telephone survey', BMC Public Health, 22, article no: 898. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13322-6 10.1186/s12889-022-13322-6

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 02 June 2023
Was this page helpful?