Lockdown Breakdown

Study Finds Fatigue With Mobility Restrictions Sets in Quickly

Except for the few recluses among us, the COVID lockdowns of 2020 were hard—and hard to heed. New marketing research quantifies just how much the world balked under them.

Lockdowns lost 30% of their effectiveness in reducing mobility in one month, UMD’s Yogesh Joshi and Andres Musalem of the University of Chile reported in research published in Scientific Reports by Nature.

The pair analyzed data collected by Google from mobile device users in 93 countries who opted to share their location history, including where they went and for how long. They compared data from users during the first five weeks of 2020—before the pandemic ramped up and lockdowns were imposed—with data from when they were put into effect, taking into consideration how restrictive they were and their length.

Mobility immediately plummeted 36% after lockdowns went into effect, then fell another 18% in the next two weeks. But then it started to creep back up; within a month of the relapse’s start, a third of the gain in lockdown compliance vanished. And it kept slipping.

The research doesn’t delve into the reasons for “lockdown fatigue,” but Joshi speculates that some people just needed to get back to work, or they just became restless.

“A bigger implication of this finding is that policymakers probably then need to start thinking about other things that can be done—things like incentives that would keep people at home, wage incentives, activities to combat lockdown fatigue—if they want people to stay home.”


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