“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”
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
To help protect yourself and others:
- get the vaccine or the vaccine booster
- limit the amount of social contact you have with other households – gather in groups of no more than 3 households
- avoid crowded places
- if you don’t have symptoms take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with other people – get LFD tests
- follow the guidance on NHS Inform on self-isolating and booking a test
- wear a face covering where required
- work from home if you can
- take an LFD test each time before you visit someone in a hospital or care home
- wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing
- open windows when meeting indoors
- use the apps: COVID status, Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland