Data shows men travel 48% more than women in face of COVID-19

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Category: News

Men have moved further than women before and during the UK’s lockdown, according to data from the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor – an online tool co-developed by the department’s Dr Adam Saunders and an interdisciplinary team of AI and big data researchers at the University. This finding potentially raises questions over whether this could have been a factor in the increased incidence of male hospitalisation and mortality rates from the virus.

The newly-launched Impact Monitor’s analysis, based on anonymised, aggregated and GDPR-compliant location data from mobile phones, provides a unique and in-depth look at life in the UK. Among revelations on life in the lockdown, the data provided by the project’s partner, CKDelta, shows that, during May alone, men moved 48% further than women.

According to the findings, men have largely travelled further from home than women since the lockdown began on 23 March.
After an initial collapse in population movement, both men and women started to become more active just one week after the lockdown began.  But, in every age group, men have moved more than women of the same age – and even, in some cases, than younger women. The research has also shed light on differences in movement by age.

Dr Adam Saunders (Researcher at the department), who co-leads the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor inter-disciplinary project, says, ‘To our knowledge this is the first study which shows differences in population movement not only between men and women but also across age groups during the UK’s lockdown. It clearly shows that men have tended to travel further from home – potentially coming into contact with the virus with greater frequency.’

Men in their mid-20s to early 30s have moved the most, according to the data. By 15 May, this group moved 54% further than women of a similar age.
Even more striking, men in their 50s have moved 28% further than the most active women, those aged between 23 and 24. Men in their 60s also moved 39% further than women of the same age.

As Dr Matthias Qian, co-leader of the project, points out, ‘The extent of differences in movement between men and women offers potential insight into why, in addition to the prevalence of underlying health conditions, men in the UK may have been most at risk from COVID-19. This is highlighted by evidence that many older men have been moving more than women of all age groups.’

The research shows that, in line with the Government’s recommendation for society’s most at-risk groups to shield themselves from contact, both men and women aged 65-plus have been the least active during the lockdown. But this group too began to increasingly move outside their homes by late March, with the gap between men and women in this age group widening on that count as social distancing has continued. By 15 May, pension-aged men moved 30% further outside their homes than women in the same age group.


The methodology that sits behind the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor tool was developed through work undertaken in the department’s Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE). For more information, see: http://www.skope.ox.ac.uk/