Interventions to increase personal protective behaviours to limit the spread of respiratory viruses: A rapid evidence review and meta‐analysis

Olga Perski, Dorothy Szinay, Elizabeth Corker, Lion Shahab, Robert West, Susan Michie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Increasing personal protective behaviours is critical for stopping the spread of respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2: We need evidence to inform how to achieve this. We aimed to synthesize evidence on interventions to increase six personal protective behaviours (e.g., hand hygiene, face mask use, maintaining physical distancing) to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. Methods: We used best practice for rapid evidence reviews. We searched Ovid MEDLINE and Scopus. Studies conducted in adults or children with active or passive comparators were included. We extracted data on study design, intervention content, mode of delivery, population, setting, mechanism(s) of action, acceptability, practicability, effectiveness, affordability, spill-over effects, and equity impact. Study quality was assessed with Cochrane’s risk-of-bias tool. A narrative synthesis and random-effects meta-analyses were conducted. Results: We identified 39 studies conducted across 15 countries. Interventions targeted hand hygiene (n = 30) and/or face mask use (n = 12) and used two- or three-arm study designs with passive comparators. Interventions were typically delivered face-to-face and included a median of three behaviour change techniques. The quality of included studies was low. Interventions to increase hand hygiene (k = 6) had a medium, positive effect (d =.62, 95% CI = 0.43–0.80, p <.001, I 2= 81.2%). Interventions targeting face mask use (k = 4) had mixed results, with an imprecise pooled estimate (OR = 4.14, 95% CI = 1.24–13.79, p <.001, I 2= 89.67%). Between-study heterogeneity was high. Conclusions: We found low-quality evidence for positive effects of interventions targeting hand hygiene, with unclear results for interventions targeting face mask use. There was a lack of evidence for most behaviours of interest within this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-264
Number of pages50
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • behaviour change
  • intervention
  • personal protective behaviours
  • rapid review

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