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Patterns of social mixing in England changed in line with restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic (September 2020 to April 2022)

Publication date: 

21 Jun 2022


Scientific Reports volume 12, Article number: 10436 (2022)


Smith LE, Potts HWW, Amlȏt R, Fear NT, Michie SM and Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Abstract Social mixing contributes to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. We developed a composite measure for risky social mixing, investigating changes during the pandemic and factors associated with risky mixing. Forty-five waves of online cross-sectional surveys were used (n = 78,917 responses; 14 September 2020 to 13 April 2022). We investigated socio-demographic, contextual and psychological factors associated with engaging in highest risk social mixing in England at seven timepoints. Patterns of social mixing varied over time, broadly in line with changes in restrictions. Engaging in highest risk social mixing was associated with being younger, less worried about COVID-19, perceiving a lower risk of COVID-19, perceiving COVID-19 to be a less severe illness, thinking the risks of COVID-19 were being exaggerated, not agreeing that one’s personal behaviour had an impact on how COVID-19 spreads, and not agreeing that information from the UK Government about COVID-19 can be trusted. Our composite measure for risky social mixing varied in line with restrictions in place at the time of data collection, providing some validation of the measure. While messages targeting psychological factors may reduce higher risk social mixing, achieving a large change in risky social mixing in a short space of time may necessitate a reimposition of restrictions.