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CoronaMelder: less used by young adults, intention to follow advice is high

Published: 13th January 2021 Last updated: 19th January 2021

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The CoronaMelder app is used nationwide to fight the coronavirus. Assigned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Dr. Nynke van der Laan led behavioral research conducted in the LISS panel (for questionnaire research) to investigate and explain the use of the app and the (intention to) follow the advice given in the app. It is striking that young adults use the app less often and that the intention to follow the advice given in the notification of the app is high. People think (wrongly) that the CoronaMelder keeps track of location and personal data, and they believe that high general app use is required to contribute to coronavirus control.

Researchers of Tilburg University Jan de Wit, PDEng and Nadine van der Waal, MSc, are also working in the project.

The study includes four measurements within this representative group, which will be followed for a longer period to see how this group behaves over time. The results of the first measurement, October 19 through November 1, 1.5 weeks after the national launch on October 10, are now reported to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

Use and awareness: differences by age and education level and risk perception

A large majority, nearly 9 in 10 people (88.7%) of respondents, are familiar with the CoronaMelder and 27.2% reported that they are currently using it. Of the respondents who do not yet use the CoronaMelder, 18% indicated that they plan to use the app in the next two months, 24.5% are neutral, and almost 6 in 10 (57.5%) indicated that they do not plan to use the CoronaMelder.

Further analysis of the users of the Corona Alarm shows that certain groups are underrepresented. Age and education level correlate with use: for example, the percentage of users was lowest among young adults (17 to 24 years; 20.2% users), and this was also significantly lower than in the 55-64 year age group, the group that uses the CoronaMelder most often (32.4% users). It is also noteworthy that higher educated people (hbo, wo; 31.4 and 36.9% users) use the CoronaMelder more often than lower educated people (only primary education, vmbo; 13.6 and 23.4% users).

The users of the CoronaMelder differed from non-users in other ways as well, for example, users rated their risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus higher, felt it would be worse to become infected, and felt it would be worse to infect others, than people who did not use the CoronaMelder. Also, users generally have more confidence in the government's approach against the coronavirus and are more intent on adhering to the other measures.

Social influences: app use is "invisible"

Respondents make a reasonably correct estimate (a slight overestimate) of the proportion of the Dutch population that uses the CoronaMelder: most respondents (37.6%) thought that between 26 and 50% of the population uses the CoronaMelder, followed by the 11 to 25% category (32.1%). Interestingly enough, in addition, relatively few people agreed with the statement that many people in their immediate environment use the CoronaMelder (15.4%). Almost half (44.7%) answered 'neutral' to this statement, which could be explained by the fact that people do not know about it from others.

Van der Laan: "The use of the CoronaMelder is relatively invisible compared to, for example, the use of mouth masks, which ensures that people only find out about it from others by talking about it. This leads people to think they are in a social environment where not many others are using the CoronaMelder, when this does not have to be the reality."

Expected contribution to fight the coronavirus

Overall, people are moderately positive about the expected contribution of the CoronaMelder to coronavirus control. About half of respondents believe that the CoronaMelder will effectively contribute to coronavirus control (53.4%) and protect vulnerable people (48.8%). These percentages are significantly higher among users (92.3% and 77.8%), compared to non-users (38.6% and 37.9%). However, people generally think that (very) widespread use is necessary to contribute to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Most (28.2%) indicated that 76 to 90% of the Dutch population should use the CoronaMelder to be effective. Overall, 65.1% of respondents thought that more than 50% of the Dutch population should use the CoronaMelder app to be effective. Feelings of false safety and risk-compensating behavior do not seem to play a significant role. The vast majority (93.9%) do not believe that the other measures no longer need to be observed once one has installed CoronaMelder.

Principles of CoronaMelder: Privacy by design and voluntary use

One of the starting points in the development of the CoronaMelder was the privacy by design principle. This means that as little personal data as possible is collected and used. The current survey shows that more than half of current users believe that the CoronaMelder tracks the user's location (57.6%) and  even 7 in 10 of non-users (71.6%). A similar pattern can be seen when it comes to tracking the user's name or personal data, with 3 in 10 (29.8%) current users (incorrectly) believing this is the case, as well as more than half (54.5%) of non-users.

Another principle in the development of the CoronaMelder was that use should be completely voluntary. No one should force you to use the app. A striking finding was that almost 2/3 of the users (62.7%) indicated that they agreed with the statement that they feel obligated to use the CoronaMelder. Of those who do not use the CoronaMelder, only 12.2% feel obligated to use it. A possible explanation is that people feel using the CoronaMelder is a social obligation.  

Following up on advice in the report

The purpose of the CoronaMelder is that people know quicker if they are potentially infected and therefore quarantine and get tested sooner. In the (hypothetical) case of complaints, 90.7% of current users indicate that after a notification in the app they would call for a coronal test, 93.2% indicate that they would stay at home as long as advised, 94.7% indicate that they would not receive any visitors after a notification. Whether this is actually adhered to in practice remains to be seen. A substantial percentage sees disadvantages in following the advice: for example, a little less than a third of this panel (30.9%) finds it a disadvantage to stay at home after a notification and a quarter (25.8%) experiences it as a disadvantage not to receive visitors after a notification. A large part (97.5%) of the current CoronaMelder users indicated that they will pass on the GGD key if they test positive for the coronavirus. For the CoronaMelder to be effective, it is important that this intention is converted into actual behavior.

Following the transparency during the development of the CoronaMelder app, all calculations underlying the evaluation report based on the data from the above study are also available on the public github account of the Tilburg research team.

Contact

For more information please contact Nynke van der Laan; l.n.vdlaan@tilburguniversity.edu

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