A New Study Shows How Habits Have Formed, Stopped and Changed with COVID-19



Photo by Vova Krasilnikov from Pexels

It’s impossible to talk about the personal effects of COVID-19 without talking about habits. Social distancing effects bore many new habits, as millions of regularly-fed jars of sourdough can now attest to. On the other hand, the pandemic cut out many routines, as gym and bar closings terminated ritualistic workouts and Happy Hours.

Some of the most important habits affected by COVID-19 were those surrounding cleanliness. As people ramped up their efforts to keep themselves and their neighbors safe and clean, it was clear that patterns were changing. But what exactly were people doing besides throwing on a mask? It was hard to tell for a while.

New survey results from Homes.com tackled the question of how habits were changing during quarantine. The habits reported by respondents offer an indication of which habits were being formed and broken, and looking at these new habits may help imagine how clean patterns will continue in the pandemic’s near and long-term future.

First, the survey reported several new habits that centered around increased cleaning activity. For instance, nearly 60% of respondents reported that they have been cleaning more since sheltering in place began. Even more, almost 90% of respondents have been washing their hands more. It’s hopeful that individuals will continue on with habits of cleanliness not only for their immune health, but as a way to encourage their cardiovascular health. A different study suggests that the physical activity from house cleaning can actually help individuals live longer lives.

On the other hand, COVID-19 has also led to the conscious breaking of habits that often spread germs. Over two-thirds of respondents actively broke habits of touching surfaces with high-levels of contact, like doorknobs and light switches, and over 45% of respondents stopped putting food and groceries away immediately, opting instead to disinfect their purchases first.

Given psychological research that suggests habit-breaking is harder than habit-forming, elimination behaviors suggest that Americans are taking the difficult steps to mitigate COVID-19 health risks, a hopeful thought.

Of course, sometimes the making or breaking of habits falls out of a single person’s control. Such is probably the case for many of the study’s respondents struggling to keep up with new and old cleaning habits.

According to the study, about 40% of respondents weren’t able to find disinfectant cleaning supplies in stores and only around 23% of respondents were wearing PPE at the time, possibly due to lack of access. These findings suggest that if Americans are expected to keep good and healthy habits, retailers and suppliers must look into practices to keep products available.

As we move into new uncertain phases COVID-19 regulations, it will be interesting to see which habits stick, which habits fall by the wayside and which new habits start to be picked up. We can only hope that all habits lead to better societal health!


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