Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Document Type

MOT Group Research Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy

Research Coordinator

Christine Raber, PHD, OTR/L

Program Director

Barbara Warnock, DHSc, OTR/L



Purpose: The global coronavirus pandemic has changed how people participate in life. Wearing a mask has become a normal aspect of daily routines due to public mandates, yet masks tend to create difficulties with ability to process stimuli within the environment and can potentially interrupt participation within life. There is little research into effects of mask-wearing on sensory processing for all ages as it is a recent pandemic.

Method: An online survey was used to describe mask-wearing habits of college-aged adults and impact on sensory experiences. An additional optional interview, which included completion of the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile, further described participants’ experience with masks.

Results: 241 students from one university responded to the online survey. Three students completed the optional interview. Survey responses found male participants (47%) felt safer when wearing a mask. Roughly equal percentages of male (53%) and female (48%) participants reported not feeling overwhelmed when wearing masks. Level of household income distinguished feelings of safety when wearing a mask with 49% participants with income of $75,000 - $150,000 reporting feeling safe when wearing masks compared to the 48% of participants with income lower than $15,000 feeling overwhelmed when wearing masks. 87 participants shared personal experiences with mask-wearing and the pandemic, and 3 participants were interviewed to understand their sensory experiences with masks. Themes from narrative data were: physical/emotional feelings, response behaviors to change, and external actions. This study identified income, gender, and physical response to masks as factors linked with reported willingness to wear masks during the pandemic.

Keywords: habituation, sensory processing, masks, coronavirus, COVID-19, public health measures, mask-wearing


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