Age, Gender, and Disease as Determinants of Social Distancing: Germany as a Case Study

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2023 May 11:17:e392. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2023.54.


A mix of guidance and mandated regulations during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic served to reduce the number of social contacts, to ensure distancing in public spaces, and to maintain the isolation of infected individuals. Individual variation in compliance to social distancing in Germany, relating to age, gender, or the presence of pre-existing health conditions, was examined using results from a total of 39 375 respondents to a web-based behavioral survey.Older people and females were more willing to engage in social distancing. Those with chronic conditions showed overall higher levels of compliance, but those with cystic fibrosis, human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and epilepsy showed less adherence to general social distancing measures but were significantly more likely to isolate in their homes. Behavioral differences partly lie in the nature of each condition, especially with those conditions likely to be exacerbated by COVID-19. Compliance differences for age and gender are largely in line with previous studies.

Keywords: behavioral boundaries; policy measures; rule compliance; social distancing.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Physical Distancing
  • SARS-CoV-2