Trust in Each Other Key in Limiting the Spread of #Covid

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”

Anton Chekov

Countries with the most trusting societies – where people trusted in each other – were found to have reduced new cases of Covid and deaths from the virus in research conducted on data produced before we had vaccination.

The study produced by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that where people trusted one another, that there was  a faster decline in infections and deaths from peak levels.

Professor Tim Lenton explained:

 “Our results add to evidence that trust within society benefits resilience to epidemics.

“Building trust within communities should be a long-term project for all nations because this will help them cope with future pandemics and other challenges such as extreme events caused by climate change.”

The study shows the effect of stringent government interventions on coronavirus spread is not straightforward. Most governments applied similarly stringent restrictions but had hugely varying success in bringing down case numbers and deaths. This is partly because more stringent governments tend to be associated with less trusting societies.

The researchers measured more than 150 countries’ resilience to COVID-19 as the nationwide decay rate of daily cases or deaths from peak levels, using information from the Our World in Data COVID-19 dataset up to 1 December 2020 – before vaccines were available.

Resilience to COVID-19 varied by a factor of 40 between countries for cases/capita and by a factor of 25 for deaths/capita.

All countries where more than 40% of respondents agreed “most people can be trusted” achieved a near complete reduction of new cases and deaths. So did some less-trusting societies – indicating that trust in each other is only one of several factors at play.

Looking across countries, the researchers found no significant correlation between trust in government and success at bringing down cases and deaths.

Wealth and associated healthcare helps, but it is less important than trust in each other.

The study, by Professor Tim Lenton and Dr Chris Boulton from the University of Exeter, and Professor Marten Scheffer from Wageningen University, is published in the journal Scientific Reports: Resilience of countries to COVID-19 correlated with trust

“It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.”

Graham Greene

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2 replies »

  1. It’s hard to trust Bejing type Government, Putin, Trump, Rees-Mogg, Johnson etc but Chekov makes a good point and these researchers back it up well

    • Whilst I agree with your first points, I am not so sure about the findings of the study. Some of it is weak and there are many limitations, including the ones which refer to the quality of the underlying data. But the main problem could be a time factor… the longer this is ongoing, the more people become ‘stroppy’ which causes now problems even in countries where trust was initially high and the numbers remained, at least temporarily in some case, low(er).
      I think that such a study will only make sense in full retrospective, when the pandemic is truly over and outcomes can be measured more accurately. For example in the UK, excess mortality over the period of the pandemic and some time afterwards will provide a clearer picture of the ‘outcome’ which includes not only deaths directly but also indirectly from Covid.
      Too many factors influence resilience and better outcomes; trust in institutions, authorities and other people is just one part of it. And trust can be gained or lost… there is a dynamic which cannot be grasped or measured easily.
      Personally, I was not convinced about the findings of this study.

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