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"Trust and inequality fuelling COVID-19 spread"

Trust in public institutions is linked to fewer COVID-19 deaths – however, trust and belonging to groups is associated with more deaths.

This is the finding of a wide-ranging study of 30-day COVID-19 mortality rates in 84 countries. 

Greater economic inequality is also associated with COVID-19 mortality, the results show.

The study is the first to show how global differences in COVID-19 mortality relate to income inequality. 

It also includes surveys on social trust and confidence in public institutions representing 86% of the global population.

The analysis reveals that COVID-19 mortality is linked to differences in trust. 

A lack of confidence in state institutions was associated with more deaths – consistent with research during the SARS and H1N1 pandemics.

However, the researchers found that social trust and belonging is also associated with mortality. 

While connecting with friends and family is a natural response in times of crisis, in some countries, this trust and the desire to socialise may be interfering with efforts to contain transmission through physical distancing.

Moreover, strong group bonds can sometimes reinforce risky health behaviours, so that high-trusting societies may be more susceptible to misinformation about the severity of COVID-19, bogus treatments, or dismissive attitudes towards physical distancing. 

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Image Credit | GettyImages

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