Pandemic in New York: how habits change

A study conducted by researchers from the Bruno Kessler Foundation and CNR-Isti, published in Scientific Reports, analysed changes in daily behaviour and the ability to adapt to precautionary measures following the outbreak of Covid-19. A decrease in shop visits and in the number of people staying in places visited was found.

What impact did the first year of the pandemic have on human behaviour? How have our routines changed, our ability to respect restrictions and to forgo, at least in part, social activities?

These questions were the focus of a study carried out by the Fondazione Bruno Kessler of Trento in collaboration with the Institute of Information Science and Technology of the National Research Council (CNR-Isti) and the New York-based company Cuebiq Inc.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, was based on GPS data from 837,000 anonymously processed mobile phones in the US from January to September 2020. It found that during the study period, the number of visits to shops and other places of interest decreased by 28% compared to the pre-pandemic period in New York State, and at the same time, the length of stay in the places visited decreased by 23%. The study also found that people remained protective during the reopening phase, continuing the trend of visiting fewer places and spending less time there.

“Observation and analysis of the data suggests that as the pandemic continued, people began to pay less attention to the data on the number of cases and deaths caused by the pandemic and their perception of risk changed somewhat. This changed their behaviour accordingly. Another hypothesis is that economic reasons prompted them to go to more places again and stay longer,” says Lorenzo Lucchini, a researcher at the Kessler Foundation.

Less precautions were found within the home. “Analyses have also shown that while people have generally reduced social contacts to decrease the probability of infection in places of interest, the same precautions have not been maintained within the home,” concludes Luca Pappalardo, researcher at CNR-Isti. “Within the home, we have not been as careful to reduce social contacts with people who do not live together, despite the fact that it is known that contacts in that type of environment contribute significantly to the spread of infection.

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