The impacts and implications of the community face mask use during the Covid-19 pandemic: A qualitative narrative interview study.
INTRODUCTION: A range of nonpharmaceutical public health interventions has been introduced in many countries following the rapid spread of Covid-19 since 2020, including recommendations or mandates for the use of face masks or coverings in the community. While the effectiveness of face masks in reducing Covid-19 transmission has been extensively discussed, scant attention has been paid to the lived experience of those wearing face masks. METHOD: Drawing on 40 narrative interviews with a purposive sample of people in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on marginalised and minoritized groups, our paper explores experiences of face mask use during the pandemic. RESULTS: We find that face masks have a range of societal, health and safety impacts, and prompted positive and negative emotional responses for users. We map our findings onto Lorenc and Oliver's framework for intervention risks. We suggest that qualitative data offer particular insights into the experiences of public health interventions, allowing the potential downsides and risks of interventions to be more fully considered and informing public health policies that might avoid inadvertent harm, particularly towards marginalised groups. PATIENT OR PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION: The study primarily involved members of the public in the conduct of the research, namely through participation in interviews (email and telephone). The conception for the study involved extensive discussions on social media with a range of people, and we received input and ideas from presentations we delivered on the preliminary analysis.