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“Responsible” or “Strange”? Differences in Face Mask Use Between Chinese and Non-East Asian Canadians During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Objectives: Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians exhibited differential support for public mask use, which may have implications for public health and interethnic relations. Such differences were primarily attributed to variations in ethnic norms and practices by journalists and scholars, with relatively fewer research examining the role of subjective attitudes. To promote greater public mask use and intergroup understanding, this mixed-methods research examines Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians’ mask use attitudes with the goal of acquiring an in-depth understanding of their rationales for mask wearing.

    Design: This research contains a qualitative (Study 1) and a quantitative study (Study 2), to jointly examine mask use attitudes. Study 1 utilizes group interviews (N = 66) to explore Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians’ perceptions of public mask use. Study 2 involves a nation-wide online survey (N = 1832) to compare the frequency and reasons of public mask use across the two groups.

    Results: Study 1 captured an ambivalent, yet evolving attitude toward public mask use among the non-Chinese Canadians, which differed from their Chinese counterparts who more uniformly perceived mask use favourably. Study 2 suggests that contrary to the frequent and normative use of masks among the Chinese sample, public mask use was more “situated” for the non-Chinese participants prior to the pandemic. Although both groups primarily wore masks for disease protection- and prevention-related reasons, age and education appeared to influence the mask wearing frequency of non-Chinese Canadians, for whom public mask use was less normative.

    Conclusion: The attitudinal differences in public mask use call for targeted strategies to support mask wearing for different ethnic groups. A reduction in “mask-prejudice” helps to support public mask use among Chinese Canadians, whereas facilitative social norms, in conjunction with an evidence-based information campaign involving personal appeals may encourage greater mask use by the non-Chinese population.

  • Date created
    2021-06-30
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Draft / Submitted)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-yz5x-e253
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International