Countries whose citizens trust their government and each other suffered far fewer infections during the pandemic, according to a new document that concludes that better health systems with resources do not affect the coronavirus infection rate.
The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that higher levels of confidence, as measured by studies conducted from 2017 to 2021, were associated with greater compliance with Covid restrictions and a higher percentage. of vaccination.
Economic inequality, trust in science or whether a country has universal health care are also factors that do not affect the infection rate, the researchers found. They found no link between the effectiveness of a government, as measured by the World Bank, or whether a government is democratic or not.
In general, high-level Scandinavian and East Asian nations outperform countries with lower levels of trust in their governments, adjusted for factors beyond the control of politicians, such as the age of their population.
Argentina and the United States, which have less confidence in their leaders, have more infections per capita than many other high-income countries.
“Consistency in signaling issues,” said Thomas Boliki, director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of the report. “It is important for leaders to model the behavior they want to see in their constituents.”
Although 60% of the differences between infection rates in individual countries cannot be explained, the study shows that trust is a significant indicator of the spread of infections.
It concluded that if each nation trusted its government to the level of Denmark, which ranks high on the 75th percentile of confidence, global Covid-19 infections would be 13 percent lower.
If they trusted their fellow citizens as much as the Danes, infections could be 40 percent lower. This is the equivalent of 440 million fewer infections for the 21-month period to September 2021, which was estimated.
Boliki also cited the example of Vietnam, which has a high rating of confidence in the government. “This may be one of the reasons Vietnam is doing so well in the pandemic,” he said. Prior to the crisis, the Southeast Asian country ranked low on a number of preparedness indicators such as universal health coverage and hospital beds, he added.
There were clear factors that helped explain mortality, measured as the proportion of infections, including gross domestic product per capita, population age and obesity levels.
In high- and middle-income countries, where vaccines against Covid-19 were widely available, vaccination rates were higher in those nations with high levels of government and interpersonal trust and less government corruption.
Lower levels of corruption, assessed by the NGO Transparency International and researchers from the Variety of Democracy Institute, were also linked to greater compliance with blocking limits, as measured by reduced mobility.
As governments rethink their pandemic preparedness plans, Boliki said he hopes they will realize the importance of restoring trust and adapting public health communications to impact their communities.
“The best way for the government to protect its citizens is to persuade them to take steps to protect themselves,” he said.