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Culture and Covid-19: A Global Analysis of the Successes of Collectivist Countries and the Failures of Individualistic Countries

42 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2021

See all articles by R. Jeffrey Melton

R. Jeffrey Melton


Robert C. Sinclair

Sinclair & Associates Consulting Incorporated



Enormous cross-national differences exist in COVID-19 infection and death rates. Collectivist cultures are characterized by greater concern for ingroup members than for self-interest, whereas the reverse is true for individualistic cultures. In light of evidence suggesting that countries with collectivist cultures are more likely than countries with individualistic cultures to have near-universal compliance with infection-preventive behaviors such as public mask-wearing and less likely to place their elderly in nursing homes (which account for a high proportion of deaths in individualistic countries), we hypothesized that infection per million (IPM) and death per million (DPM) rates would be significantly lower for collectivist countries than individualistic countries. We categorized countries as collectivist or individualistic based on Hofstede’s (1980) cut-offs. As predicted, rates were significantly lower in collectivist than individualistic countries. Furthermore, an analysis of covariance controlling for median age showed that the observed differences could not be accounted for by the lower average age of citizens of collectivist countries. Additionally, a significantly higher proportion of the elderly population resided in nursing homes in individualistic than collectivist countries, and nursing home residency proportion was significantly related to death rates. Collectivist countries also enacted mask mandates and lockdowns significantly sooner after their first reported case than individualistic countries, and the timing of mask mandate and lockdown enactment was significantly associated with IPM and DPM rates. Anti-mask or anti-lockdown protests were also far more common in individualistic countries, and the occurrence of such protests was significantly related to “spikes” in infection rates. Finally, spikes in infections were more prevalent in individualistic countries, and timing of lockdowns and mask mandates was associated with their occurrence. Directions for future research and implications are discussed.

Funding Information: None to declare.

Declaration of Interests: None to declare.

Keywords: collectivism and individualism, COVID epidemiology, cross-cultural psychology, social psychology, public health

Suggested Citation

Melton, R. Jeffrey and Sinclair, Robert C., Culture and Covid-19: A Global Analysis of the Successes of Collectivist Countries and the Failures of Individualistic Countries. Available at SSRN: or

Robert C. Sinclair

Sinclair & Associates Consulting Incorporated

United States

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