Altarum survey: Men lag behind women in social distancing

ANN ARBOR—Men are less likely to follow social distancing guidelines and orders compared to women, according to survey data released today by Altarum, an Ann Arbor-based research firm that supports Michigan’s public health, surveillance, and outbreak management systems.

More than 16,000 Michigan residents have completed the tracking survey about COVID-19 perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors since Thursday, March 19. Below are key social distancing findings:

  • 9 percent of men reported they are “unlikely” or “extremely unlikely” to follow Michigan’s shelter-in-place order, compared to just 4 percent of women in the state. On March 23, Michigan’s governor announced a shelter-in-place order beginning at midnight that evening. Survey responses from two days after the order took effect show that women are much more likely to follow the order than men.
  • Men are less likely to take appropriate public health precautions.
    • 90 percent of women reported avoiding public spaces a lot more or far more than usual, while only 76 percent of men reported doing so.
    • While 85 percent of women report maintaining a distance of 6 feet or more from others a lot more or far more than usual, only 77 percent of men reported doing so.
  • In the last week of March, men in Michigan were twice as likely as women to have attended a gathering of 10 or more people (11 percent vs. 5 percent).
  • About half of men reported still working outside the home in the past week whereas just 41 percent of women reported working outside the home.
  • Men are also reporting an overall lower level of concern about COVID-19. 33 percent of men rated their concern as less than 8 on a 0 to 10 scale, compared to only 18 percent of women.

“Data on COVID-19 cases in Italy and Spain indicate that men may be at greater risk of death from the coronavirus than women, underscoring the need for men to take social-distancing measures seriously,” said Dan Armijo, Altarum CEO. “And while our survey focused on Michigan, we believe similar risk taking differences exist between men and women across the country.”

Full survey results, including data visualizations and county-level data are available at

Altarum conducted the tracking survey to understand Michigan residents’ risk factors, preventive behaviors, concerns, and sources of information about COVID-19. It is revealing how respondents’ feelings and behaviors change over time, as well as how certain thoughts and behaviors might be related. Altarum officials said they hope the data will help inform the response to the outbreak in Michigan.

Michigan residents may take the survey at:

While these results have been weighted by age and gender to better represent the state’s population, there is the potential for response bias because we are using an online survey instrument. In tandem, Altarum is also conducting a series of more traditional representative surveys and will make those results publicly available as we receive them.

Altarum is a nonprofit organization that implements solutions to advance health of vulnerable and publicly insured populations through applied research and analytics, technology, continuing education, advisory services, and program implementation

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