Why don’t we keep our distance? Evidence for more effective communication in the pandemic

Lead researcher: Dr Gerard Molloy, NUI Galway. Funded by: Health Research Board and Irish Research Council. Funding amount: €148,745.

Dr Gerard Molloy
Dr Gerard Molloy

In summary

Keeping physically distant from others is a proven way to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, but people are less likely to stick to the recommendations than they are to follow other important steps, such as washing their hands.

A project at NUI Galway will use expertise in behaviour change interventions to gather information about how different groups in society feel about physical distancing, and how future communications could be tailored to encourage greater adherence in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem

People do not tend to rigidly follow physical distancing recommendations, even though it is a proven way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The project

A project led by NUI Galway will explore how people feel about physical distancing, looking across different age groups and analyse how communications could be tailored to be more effective in encouraging this practice in the general public.

The outcomes

  • We will know more about how people feel about physical distancing and why people may be less likely to practice it compared to other measures, such as washing hands.
  • The project will help deliver an evidenced-informed communications strategy for Ireland, to encourage proven behaviours that help to stop the spread of COVID-19

Dr Gerard Molloy, from NUI Galway’s School of Psychology, says:

'Collectively we have done very well with keeping apart in the early stages of the pandemic and we can see how this has reduced Covid-19 transmission and the related demands on our health services. The initial evidence indicates that maintaining this distancing has been very challenging for many people, particularly for those facing difficult personal, social and working conditions. Therefore, we need to better understand what will help people achieve the required level of distancing and how we communicate about the need for further measures, particularly if we go through a cycle of relaxing and reinstating physical distancing over the next year'.

Dr Molloy speaks about the project on the HRB You Tube channel.

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