The impact of individuals' social environments on contact tracing app use: Survey Study

Sadeghi, A.; Pape, S. and Harborth, D.

In JMIR Human Factors, to appear, 2023.


Background: The German Corona-Warn-App (CWA) is a contact tracing app to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2. As of today, it has been downloaded approximately 45 million times. Objective: In this study, we investigate the influence of (non-)users' social environments on the usage of the CWA during two time periods with relatively lower death rates and higher death rates caused by SARS-CoV-2. Methods: We conducted a longitudinal survey study in Germany with 833 participants in two waves to investigate how participants perceive their peer-groups opinion about making use of the German CWA to mitigate the risk of SARS-CoV-2. In addition, we asked whether this perceived opinion, in turn, influences the participants with respect to their own decision to use the CWA. We analyzed these questions with Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE). And with two-related-sample tests to test for differences between users of the CWA and non-users and between the two points in time (wave 1 with the highest death rates observable during the pandemic in Germany versus wave 2 with significantly lower death rates). Results: Participants perceive that peer-groups have a positive opinion towards using the CWA, with more positive opinions by the media, family doctors, politicians, and virologists/RKI and a lower, only slightly negative opinion originating from social media (Figure 3). Users of the CWA perceive their peer groups' opinions about using the app as more positive than non-users do (see Table 3). Furthermore, the perceived positive opinion of the media and politicians is significantly lower in wave 2 compared to wave 1 (see Table 5). The perceived opinion of friends and family as well as their perceived influence towards using the CWA is significantly higher in the latter period compared to wave 1 (see Table 5). The influence of virologists (in Germany primarily communicated via the Robert Koch Institute) has the highest positive effect on using the CWA (B=.363, P=.000). We only find one decreasing effect of the influence of politicians (B=-.098, P=.044). Conclusions: Opinions of peer groups play an important role when it comes to the adoption of the CWA. Our results show that the influence of Virologists / Robert Koch Institute and family/friends exerts the strongest effect on participants' decisions to use the CWA while politicians had a slightly negative influence. Our results indicate that it is crucial to accompany the introduction of such a contact tracing app with explanations and a media campaign to support its adoption which is backed up by political decision-makers subject-matter experts.

Bibtexhuman factorsiotcs4e


  author   = {Atiyeh Sadeghi and Sebastian Pape and David Harborth},
  title    = {The impact of individuals' social environments on contact tracing app use: Survey Study},
  journal  = {JMIR Human Factors},
  year     = {2023},
  volume   = {to appear},
  keywords = {human factors, CWA, IoT, CS4E},