UCL News


Majority feel they comply with Covid-19 rules better than others

4 December 2020

More than nine in ten (92%) people grade their own compliance with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions as better than what they think the population average is, find UCL researchers as part of the Covid-19 Social Study.

pedestrians walking past one another

A further 6% felt they were complying the same amount as everyone else, and just 2% felt their compliance was lower than average.

‘Majority’ compliance or higher with the rules over the autumn (second) lockdown in England has remained above 90%, while ‘complete’ compliance is just under half (46-49%). When asked, the majority of people (96%) predicted that average population compliance was between one and five points lower than it actually was on the scale of 1-7 used in the study. This is contrasted with just 1% predicting it was higher and 3% predicting it accurately.

Launched in the week before lockdown started, the ongoing UCL Covid-19 Social Study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health with over 70,000 participants who have been followed across the last 36 weeks.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “It is concerning that people consistently assume they are obeying the rules more than the average person.

“This could be due to individuals making excuses for their own infringements while assuming others have no good reason to be breaking the rules, or just the tendency to notice rule-breaking among others without taking into account the numbers of people who are abiding by restrictions.

“Pessimism about the perceived rate of compliance could lead people to break more rules themselves, as the sense of solidarity which is crucial to mass observance of restrictions is disrupted. Despite these concerns, majority compliance remains high in what is clearly a challenging time for many.”

The study also found that participants’ mental health has worsened, with almost a third (32%) feeling their mental health is worse than it was during the summer, compared to just 7% who feel it has improved. These changes are most apparent amongst younger adults, with almost half (45%) of those aged 18-29 feeling their mental health is worse than it was in the summer. However this is better than in April-May, when 56% of the same group felt their mental health was worse than normal.

Cheryl Lloyd, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said: "Whilst at lower risk of the more severe physical effects of the Covid-19 virus, this research continues to show that 18-29 year olds are more likely than other age groups to be experiencing mental health problems during the pandemic, including symptoms of more severe anxiety and depression.

“This may be due to factors which particularly affect young adults, including labour market uncertainty and feelings of loneliness. It is important that policies designed to support young adults, and other at risk groups, take into account the psychological impacts of the pandemic. We must ensure that adequate mental health services are available and easy to access, particularly for those most at risk."

The study team is also running the COVID-MINDS Network: an international network of over 130 longitudinal mental health from over 70 countries. Through the network, dozens of scientists and clinicians are coming together internationally to collate results from mental health studies running in countries around the world and compare findings. The initiative is supporting the launch new mental health studies in other countries and show whether actions taken in specific countries are helping to protect mental health.



Credit: Free-Photos Source: Pixabay (CC.2.0) *Taken pre-lockdown in 2016

Media contact

Jake Hawkes

Tel: +44 (0)7747 565 056

Email: j.hawkes [at] ucl.ac.uk