Social distancing and COVID-19: Factors associated with compliance with social distancing norms in Spain

Estrella Gualda*, Andre Krouwel, Marisol Palacios-Gálvez, Elena Morales-Marente, Iván Rodríguez-Pascual, E. Begoña García-Navarro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article describes patterns of compliance with social distancing measures among the Spanish population during the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It identifies several factors associated with higher or lower compliance with recommended measures of social distancing. This research is part of a 67-country study, titled the International COVID-19 study on Social & Moral Psychology, in which we use a Spanish dataset. Participants were residents in Spain aged 18 or above. The sample comprises 1,090 respondents, weighted to be representative of the Spanish population. Frequencies, correlations, bivariate analysis, and six models based on hierarchical multiple regressions were applied. The main finding is that most Spaniards are compliant with established guidelines of social distance during the pandemic (State of Alarm, before May 2020). Variables associated more with lower levels of compliance with these standards were explored. Six hierarchical multiple regression models found that compliance with social distance measures has a multifactorial explanation (R2 between 20.4 and 49.1%). Sociodemographic factors, personal hygiene patterns, and the interaction between personal hygiene patterns and the support for political measures related to the coronavirus brought significant effects on the regression models. Less compliance was also associated with beliefs in some specific conspiracy theories with regard to COVID-19 or general conspiracy mentality (Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire, CMQ), consumption patterns of traditional mass media (television, paper newspapers, magazines, and radio) and modern means to get informed (online digital newspapers, blogs, and social networks), political ideology, vote, trust in institutions, and political identification. Among the future lines of action in preventing the possible outbreak of the virus, we suggest measures to reinforce trust in official information, mainly linked to reducing the influence of disinformation and conspiracy theories parallel to the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number727225
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSeptember
Early online date14 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Special thanks to Yordan Kutiyski and Tom Etienne at Kieskompas (Election Compass) for collecting and weighting the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Gualda, Krouwel, Palacios-Gálvez, Morales-Marente, Rodríguez-Pascual and García-Navarro.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • conspiracy theories
  • coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • disinformation
  • pandemics
  • public health
  • social distancing
  • Spain


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