Analyzing data on the coronavirus during 2020, a group of researchers found that the most trusting societies tended to achieve a faster decline in coronavirus infections and deaths.
This is likely because behaviors vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing face masks and social distancing, depend on mutual trust to be effective.
The study, conducted by Tim Lenton and Chris Boulton of the University of Exeter, and Marten Scheffer of the University of Wageningen, is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers measured the resistance of more than 150 countries to COVID-19 as the nationwide rate of deterioration of daily cases or deaths from peak levels, using information from the Our World in Data COVID-19 data set. until December 1, 2020before vaccines were available:
Our results add to the 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 that the effect of strict government interventions on the spread of the coronavirus is not straightforward. Most governments applied similarly stringent restrictions, but had highly variable success in reducing the number of cases and deaths. This is partly because stricter governments tend to associate with less trusting societies..
All countries where more than 40 percent 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 of several factors at play.