Societies where people trust each other more have been more successful in reducing Covid cases and deaths, study finds

Researchers have found a ‘threshold effect’ in countries where at least 40% of people agree with the statement ‘most people can be trusted’. This kind of mindset is what helped in the effective reduction of cases and deaths during the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in 2020. The study was published in Scientific Reports magazine.

In Scandinavian countries trust is very high, with more than 60% of people agreeing with the above statement. Australia and China also have high levels of trust in their society. On the other hand, in the UK it is dangerously close to 40%, and in like Spain and France is even smaller.

Looking at coronavirus data for the year 2020, the researchers found that more confident societies tended to see infections and deaths decline faster from peak levels. This is likely because the behaviors most critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing, rely on mutual trust to be effective.

The study shows that the effect of government interventions to control the spread of a disease is not simple. Most governments applied very similar restrictions, but success measured as reductions in the number of cases and deaths varied greatly from country to country. This is in part because stricter governments tend to be associated with less trusting societies.

All countries where more than 40% of respondents agreed that “most people can be trusted” saw an almost complete reduction in new cases and deaths. So did some less trusting societies, indicating that trust in others is just one factor at play.

Looking across countries, the researchers found no significant correlation between trust in government and success in reducing cases and deaths. Wealth and associated health care help, but are less important than trust in others.


Country resilience to COVID-19 correlated with trust


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