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Regulation and Trust: A Social Science Perspective on COVID-19 Mortality
23 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2020More...
Background: The outbreak of COVID-19 has dramatically changed societies in 2020. Since the end of February, Europe has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but there are major country differences in both the spread of the virus and measures taken to stop the virus. Social psychological factors such as institutional trust could be important in understanding the development of the epidemic. The aim of our study was to examine country-variation in COVID-19 mortality in Europe by analyzing 1) social risk factors explaining the spread of the disease, 2) restrictions and control measures and 3) institutional trust.
Methods: The present study was based on a background analysis of European Social Survey data on 25 European countries (N = 47,802). Multilevel mixed effects linear regression models focused on 68 days of the COVID-19 epidemic (January 23 – March 31, 2020) and modelled the daily COVID-19 mortality. Analysis focused on the impact of social relations, restrictions and institutional trust within each country. Additional analyses showed differences between low and high institutional trust countries.
Findings: The spread of the COVID-19 epidemic has been fast everywhere, but our findings reveal significant differences between countries in COVID-19 mortality. Perceived sociability predicted higher COVID-19 mortality. Major differences between the 25 countries were found in reaction times to the crisis. Late reaction to the crisis predicted later mortality figures. Institutional trust was associated with lower COVID-19 mortality. Increase in mortality was more rapid in countries with low institutional trust compared to those with high institutional trust.
Interpretation: The analyses demonstrated the importance of societal and social psychological factors in the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. By considering multiple perspectives, our study showed that country differences in Europe are major and this will have an impact on how countries will cope with the ongoing crisis in the following months. The results underline the role of high institutional trust which is important when health authorities and governments are instructing people to keep distance from each other. Our results indicate the importance of timely restrictions and cooperation with people. Without institutional trust it is very difficult to regulate epidemics such as COVID-19 in European democratic societies.
Funding Statement: None.
Declaration of Interests: The authors declare no competing interests.
Keywords: COVID-19; mortality; Europe; institutional trust; prevention; infectious diseases
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation