* Please note that this is part of an ongoing study and that updates will be provided in separate blog posts. Track back to wave 1&2 results here.
Written by Peter Slattery and the SCRUB media team (Georgia Buckland, Sanjana Suresh Babu, Marta Mangiarulo, Piper Oren and Emily Grundy)
BehavioursWorks Australia, a research enterprise within the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, is leading the Australian chapter of the Survey of COVID-19 Responses to Understand Behaviour (SCRUB) project, which aims to give policymakers actionable insights into public attitudes and behaviours relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 120 international collaborators are involved in the project, and over 5,000 people in 40 countries have participated in the survey.
The survey measures behaviour, behavioural drivers, COVID-19 attitudes and beliefs, and demographic variables. Outputs include:
The following are a few findings from the third wave of Australian data, collected between 12/5/2020 – 17/5/2020 and funded by the Victorian Government.
It is clear that the number of cases in Australia has significantly reduced since mid-March (see Australian Government, Department of Health statistics).
While announcements have been released about the easing of restrictions, SCRUB data tells us some of the behavioural choices Australians are making.
The graph below (a screenshot from the SCRUB interactive dashboard) summarises responses to some of our behavioural questions.
The light and dark blue sections indicate those who reported often or always doing the behaviour. The yellow, orange and red sections indicate those who ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ did the behaviour.
As the graph shows, the majority of Australians adhered to key personal protective behaviours recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19. Australians consistently maintained physical distance in public spaces and, to a lesser extent, stayed at home and practiced good hand hygiene.
Later in this article, we examine the barriers to staying at home and adhering to hand hygiene advice.
Of concern is the uptake of the COVIDSafe mobile phone app, a recent addition to the government’s strategy to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 using tracing methods. Over half of respondents (56%) were ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ using the app in public.
The graph below (a screenshot from the SCRUB interactive dashboard) provides a visual representation of how Australians’ preventative behaviours regarding COVID-19 are changing across our three waves of data collection (March, April, and May).
The vertical scale indicates the frequency with which behaviours are being performed (1 = Never doing the behaviour over the last 7 days (5 = Always doing the behaviour over the last 7 days).
Future data collection waves will provide insight into how popularity of the COVID-19 tracing app has changed over time.
The graph shows that at the peak of COVID-19 breakout (March-April 2020), most Australians were adhering to the five key behaviours recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health to stop the spread of the virus.
However, adherence rates dropped slightly in May, possibly due to loosening restrictions or decreasing infection rates.
The following table has been extracted from a detailed Wave 3 report delivered to the Victorian government.
A publicly viewable version of the report can be created upon request.
As the table above shows, men and women were similarly likely to perform protective behaviours.
Older adults (50+) were more likely to practice protective behaviours, such as keeping distance in public and washing hands for 20 seconds with soap.
People over 70 were most likely to use the COVIDsafe app when in public, with 60–69 -year-olds (38%) being the least likely age group to do so.
From a state perspective, South Australian (36%) has the lowest uptake, while NSW (48%) has the highest.
The graphs below (screenshots from the interactive dashboard) show data from people who were ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’, or ‘never’ engaging in protective behaviours.
Drawing on behavioural theory, we asked them to select which factors influenced their non-compliance. In this section we focus on two protective behaviours—staying at home and washing hands—and the barriers preventing their uptake.
As shown above, the vast majority of Australians were aware of the necessity to stay at home, knew how to do it, remembered to do it, and wanted to do it.
However, a small portion of the population (9%) did not have the resources to carry out this behaviour and a much larger percentage (45%) reported that their perception that ‘no one else is doing this behaviour’ was a barrier.
As shown above, all Australian respondents knew how to wash their hands and almost everyone knew about it, wanted to do it, and had the resources to do it.
More than a quarter of respondents (26%) reported that their perception that ‘no one else is doing it’ was a barrier.
More than a third (35%) indicated that forgetting to wash their hands was an issue.
Here are some quick insights and implications for policymakers that emerge from the data:
To learn more about the SCRUB survey, please visit the website and interactive dashboard. You can access the survey and data here.
You can also help the research team provide more policy-relevant snapshots of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking part in the survey here.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to use the SCRUB survey to collect data in your country or state (voluntarily or funded) or want access to the data.
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