Two out of three think that society needs fundamental changes

August 25th 2020

Many participants in Big Corona Study report having difficulties wearing a mask  

Reusable masks are not washed enough. Many people report having problems related to using masks. In addition, 66% think that society and the economy need radical changes. A new edition of the Big Corona Study teaches us this and more. 

On Tuesday, just under 25,000 people participated in the eighteenth wave of the Big Corona Study, an initiative of the University of Antwerp, supported by UHasselt, KU Leuven and ULB. The Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) supports this large-scale study financially. Just before the start of the new school year, participants were asked a series of questions about masks and other matters. The scientists also gauged the expectations of Belgians for the post-corona period. 

Some striking observations about the use of masks: 

  • When it comes to types of masks, disposable and reusable ones balance each other out nicely: 51.9% choose a reusable mask; 48.1% a non-reusable mask. Disposable masks are preferred when they need to be worn for longer periods: 61.4% of participants who wear a mask for more than 8 hours a day use a disposable mask.  

  • It is recommended to wash a ​reusable mask every day, but in practice this does not happen at all. 19% wash it after each use; 19% daily; 17.5% every second day; 10.2% twice a week. 28.3% wash their mask only once a week; 6% even say they never wash their reusable mask.  


  • 35.7% of respondents reported having problems with using a mask, and for people who wear a mask for more than 8 hours, this increases to 67.3%. The most common problems are: breathing problems/hyperventilation (23.9%); glasses (16.5%); acne (15.9%); headaches (8.8%); and sinusitis (7.2%). 

  • The vast majority throw their non-reusable masks away after eight hours at the latest. Yet 10.6% say they only throw it away when it is damaged.  

​​In the new school year, all pupils in secondary school will have to wear a mask. The Big Corona Study asked questions about the use of masks at school. 39% think that mandatory mask use is a good thing; 40% would have preferred a different scenario; 21% had no opinion. Those in favour mention that with masks there is a lower chance of transmission and that it’s safer. Those opposed fear that masks make teaching and interaction more difficult and make concentrating difficult. 

Things should be different vs back to normal  

The scientists also asked participants some questions about the near future. A very small minority fears that there will be no vaccine and that the one-and-a-half metre rule is here to stay. A large majority (66%) believes that there will be a vaccine, but that fundamental changes in our society and economy will be necessary. 

Women are more likely to share this belief, while older people are also more likely to think that the world will change. 24% of participants think that the coming months will be difficult, but that we will then return to the old ways of life. Young men are the most convinced of this. 

The Big Corona Study is organised every two weeks. The next wave is scheduled for Tuesday 8 September between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. (available in four languages). 

www.corona-studie.be / www.etude-corona.be / www.corona-study.be / www.corona-befragung.be