Mask Wearing: Young Men and Older Women P2

If you haven’t read P1 of this, click HERE and do so now. Otherwise this P2 will make no sense. (It’s up to you whether you do the task there but you should be in a better position to make an informed evaluation of what I say here if you do.)

In P1 of this blogpost, I conducted a wee ad hoc survey in Glasgow city centre one afternoon a few weeks ago before mask-wearing was mandatory and found, from my tiny sample and very dodgy methodology, that the mask-wearing fraction of the sample was roughly equivalent to the ‘less than a quarter’ of the survey population that I’d estimated at the start.

My reaction to that was that it didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the two demographic groups that were, overwhelmingly wearing masks. Not just in my tiny fraction of 5 out of 24, but all over George Square, and Queen Street Station, when I simply stopped and stared.

In P1 I invited you to replicate my staring, in a more controlled manner (open to other selective errors, it’s true) for yourselves. With these instructions:

  • Look at a clear photo of an unrelated crowd of people, perhaps in the background to a single person, taken in recent months but before mandatory masking was imposed.
  • Draw a grid like this one and enter a vertical line in groups up to 4 then one diagonally across the group for 5 (the gate system, because it looks like one) or just a number in each box.



Masked               Unmasked


Masked               Unmasked

Older Teen/ Early Twenties
Young Adult
  • See how your result compares with mine. (Don’t click HERE to find out, until you’ve done your homework.)
  • You can let me know your findings on either Instagram or Twitter; I’m (at)gumptionology on both.

I’m now going to presume that either you’ve completed the task or you’re not going to, so here’s what I found:

Overwhelmingly, the two demographic groups that were wearing masks were … (drum roll) these:

  • In the male group – Older Teen/ Early Twenties
  • In the female group – Middle-Aged


Tentatively, I began to wonder whether these two very different demographics had different motivations and it struck me that perhaps rule-following might account for the first and caring for the second.


Rule-following can be characteristic of autism, a condition which appears to affect men and boys much more than women and girls, and which appears to be increasing in prevalence, with exactly this demographic most affected. (All of these generalisations need, of course, careful qualification.)

It’s no news that middle-aged women find the burden of care falling more heavily on their shoulders than any other demographic. True, younger mums are raising families but – as that task seems never-ending (especially nowadays when so many young people can’t afford their own place) – on entering middle age, women can find themselves expected to also take on the lioness’s share of caring for elderly parents as well. That’s not all, according to a 2010 survey in England:

“about 80 per cent of all jobs in adult social care are done by women; the proportion in direct care and support-providing jobs is higher, at 85-95 per cent”

What’s my conclusion? This post is not about the pros and cons of mask-wearing or controversy over the political nature of the pandemic. It’s simply to say that mask-wearing is a complex sociological phenomenon and that people may have very different motivations for compliance and non-compliance with recent regulations. (As well as that, let’s not forget the legal exceptions.)

This may explain why so few mask-wearers are open to evaluation of the coherence of the science. For them it’s not about logic; it’s about security and core identity. Therefore it may be very hard indeed to get the message across that:

  • Sometimes, official rules don’t make sense and the people who make them don’t have your best interests in mind.
  • It’s more caring – to yourself and to everyone else – not to wear a mask.

(Thanks to Mikhail Denishchenko for releasing his image Corona Virus into the Public Domain.)


One thought on “Mask Wearing: Young Men and Older Women P2

Comments are closed.