COVID-19: Psychologist Explains Why Malaysians Refuse to Wear Masks.

A person not wearing face mask in public.

COVID-19: Psychologist Explains Why Malaysians Refuse to Wear Masks.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Malaysia to be under restricted movement since mid-March this year.

Since then, we have learned a great deal on how to limit the spread of the disease. This includes wearing a face mask while in public. Much to the frustration of Malaysians, there are still people who have openly disregarded this practice. This includes top ranking officials and politicians.

Why is this happening? How is wearing a face mask so difficult?

Men More Than Women Do Not Wear Face Masks

A study by Capraro and Barcelo from Middlesex University found significant gender differences in mask wearing attitudes and behaviors.

Results show that men, more than women, tend to not wear the face mask. Men tend to experience more negative emotions when wearing a face mask compared to women.

Further to that, not wearing a face mask is also due to his personal assessment on the low likelihood of getting the disease. One other factor that contributes to this is also his belief that if he does catch it, he is able to quickly recover from it.

In a nutshell, men feel more lousy about wearing face masks. And those who don’t wear one tend to underestimate the risk or effects of getting the disease.

This is ironic, considering the fact that more men than women tend to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms and a higher death rate from it.

Mental Fatigue

Having the right knowledge and practicing positive health attitudes and behaviors are necessary to curb the spread of the pandemic.

This includes frequent advise from our Health D-G, Dr. Noor Hisham to practice social distancing, avoid confined and crowded spaces, regularly wash our hands, and wear a face mask.

However, these practices comes at a cost of our mental energy.

A study by Morgul and colleagues found that having good knowledge of COVID-19 and good practices such as regular handwashing, keeping physical distance, and avoiding crowded space is predictive of mental fatigue.

What these preliminary findings seem to show is that despite the benefit of practicing good habits in flattening the curve, it does take its toll on our mental health.

We have now entered the ninth month of practicing these habits. As a psychologist, even I am feeling the fatigue.

Conclusion

The more we do not adhere to the SOPs, the longer it takes for us to begin leading normal lives again.

There is only so much mental energy that we can afford. Practicing a mask wearing habit requires team effort. This includes our government officials and politicians, who should remain as role models for Malaysians.

While we wait for effective vaccines to arrive, let us all wear our face masks while in public. The longer we prolong this, the more devastating the effects of COVID-19 is on our mental health.

We cannot afford this for much longer. Let us all do this for all Malaysians. #kitajagakita

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