Motivations, barriers, and communication recommendations for promoting face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic: Survey findings from a diverse sample

PLoS One. 2021 May 7;16(5):e0251169. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251169. eCollection 2021.


State and local health departments have been tasked with promoting the use of face coverings to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in their respective communities. However, little is known about motivations and barriers to wearing face coverings in the context of COVID-19 prevention, particularly among communities of color who are at an increased risk of serious illness from the disease. The purpose of this study was to identify common motivations and barriers to face covering use, as well as explore perceptions of messages encouraging the use of face coverings among a racially and ethnically diverse sample. A survey was distributed electronically to North Carolina (NC) residents through NC Department of Health and Human Services listservs in July 2020. Participants self-categorized as Latino/a (33.5%), Black (39.1%), or white or another race (27.5%). The most commonly endorsed motivations for wearing face coverings were to avoid spreading COVID-19 (77%), as well as to protect people who are vulnerable (76%) and one's community (72%). Being uncomfortable (40%) was the most commonly endorsed barrier. Messages that included a clear request (ex. please wear a face covering) and a direct benefit (ex. keep community safe) were more commonly endorsed than those that did not. Commonly endorsed motivations, behaviors, and messages differed by race and ethnicity. Increased attention to message content, message structure, and access to information and resources may aid local officials in increasing consistent use of face coverings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Communication
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masks*
  • Motivation
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult