Psychological effect of mouth masks: ‘It can have a warning effect’

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This week it was announced that municipalities can experiment locally with mouth masks in busy places.

Rotterdam and Amsterdam are the first municipalities to do this in certain places. The face masks are mandatory in both cities from Wednesday, August 5.

Do not introduce nationally

Opinions differ about the medical necessity of a mask. In neighboring countries, a face mask is increasingly required, but according to RIVM there is ‘no univocal scientific evidence that it works’. For the time being, the Cabinet does not want to introduce a national mouth mask obligation.

Apart from whether a mask protects against the spread of the virus from person to person, wearing a mask can have other effects, health psychologist Andrea Evers of Leiden University told RTL Nieuws.

“There are different effects. On the one hand, wearing a mouth mask can help remind people that the coronavirus is there. If you see mouth masks all around you, you may be more likely to other measures, such as a meter and a half away, “she says. “Then the mask has a signal function, so it works as a kind of warning.”

According to Evers, it has not been conclusively established that wearing mouth masks has that effect, but a number of smaller studies have been carried out that show this.

Negative effect

On the other hand, wearing face masks in public can also have a negative effect, she explains. “That people think, I now have a mask on, so I no longer have to keep a meter and a half away. Then wearing a mask creates a feeling of false safety.”

As a health scientist, Evers understands that it is difficult to maintain all measures. “We’ve been living in a chronic stress situation for six months where we have to show behaviors we don’t really like. We want to go back to the old normal,” she says.

Evers compares it to losing weight: “At first you are very fanatic, but afterwards you can easily relapse. Behavioral change requires a lot of effort, especially if it is unnatural. It is a natural reaction to sometimes let go of things. reminding you to change your behavior and stick to that 1.5 meter can have a positive effect on fighting the corona virus. ”

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