Societies where people trust each other more have been more successful in reducing COVID cases and deaths, according to a study
Researchers have found a ‘threshold effect’ in countries where at least 40% of people agree with the statement ‘Most people can be trusted’. This type of mindset is what helped to effectively reduce cases and deaths during the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in 2020. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports .
In Scandinavian countries, trust is very high, with more than 60% of people agreeing with the previous statement. Australia and China also have high levels of trust within their society. By contrast, in the UK it is dangerously close to 40%, and in countries like Spain and France it is even lower .
In analyzing data for coronaviruses during 2020, researchers found that more trusting societies tended to see infections and deaths fall faster from peak levels. This is likely because the behaviors most critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing, depend on mutual trust to be effective.
The study shows that the effect of government interventions to control the spread of a disease is not straightforward. Most governments applied very similar restrictions, but success measured as a reduction in the number of cases and deaths varied greatly from country to country. This is in part because stricter governments tend to associate with less trusting societies.
All countries where more than 40% of respondents agreed that “most people can be trusted” achieved 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.
When analyzing countries, the researchers did not find a significant correlation between trust in the government and success in reducing cases and deaths. Wealth and associated healthcare help, but are less important than trust in others.