Menu

The Price Of Self-Interest: Individualistic Countries Report Higher Rates Of COVID

Study: Societies that don’t value the greater good result in higher coronavirus cases and deaths.

Why have some countries been hit harder than others during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Researchers from IDC Herzliya and Yale University say the usual answers, such as demographics (population, age) or health policy (quarantines and lockdowns), don’t illustrate the whole story.

Cultural variances across countries can prove critical.

Yossi Maaravi, vice dean at the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship at IDC Herzliya, and Aharon Levy, researcher in the department of psychology in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Yale, analyzed data from 69 countries representing about 75 percent of the world’s population.

Their conclusion: The more individualistic a country, the more COVID-19 cases and deaths it had. Citizens in more individualistic societies were also less likely to adhere to epidemic prevention measures.

By contrast, more collectivistic countries had fewer cases and a lower death toll.

Aharon Levy from Yale University. (Photo courtesy of Aharon Levy)

The analysis helps explain what’s been widely reported anecdotally — that countries in Asia, such as Thailand, Singapore and South Korea, which traditionally have lower levels of individualism, have fared much better during the pandemic than countries with high levels of individualism, such as the U.S., U.K. and Belgium.

The study, published in the February 2021 issue of Frontiers in Public Health, was based on data collected during the first phase of the pandemic in April 2020. The researchers have since done a second analysis and found similar correlations.

The results surprised Maaravi and Levy to a certain extent.

“Common sense suggests the spread of the virus will be more intensive in collectivistic societies, due to their closer and more frequent social interactions,” they write. However, they found the pandemic’s impact has been greater “in individualistic societies where people care less for the greater good.”

This can have real-world policy implications.

“Leaders should consider the unique culture of each country and its residents in formulating policies,” Maaravi and Levy said.

Dr. Yossi Maaravi of IDC Herzliya. (Adi Cohen-Tzedek)

“Thus, leaders in collectivist countries should emphasize these perceptions, while in countries where individualism is deeply rooted in the local culture, it may be better to highlight the individual’s value resulting from compliance with health guidelines rather than their contribution to the whole,” they said.

When it comes to people opposed or reluctant to taking the COVID-19 vaccine, the researchers were clear: “Messages that speak to one’s responsibility toward the community might be more effective within collectivistic communities. Within individualistic societies, on the other hand, self-protection messages should be considered.”

(Edited by Fern Siegel and David Martosko)

Individualistic countries suffer higher rates of Covid-19 appeared first on ISRAEL21c.