COVID-19 Outbreak: There is a way to escape the tsunami-like effect of a global pandemic. Right now, it seems impossible to predict what the world will look like next week, next year. Yet behavioral science and a vast area of history, It shows us that COVID-19 will transform our daily life in the long term.
An ongoing study at the University of Southern California published its first results in March, reporting that the coronavirus caused significant changes in people’s behavior.
Among the findings are the following: 85 percent of people reported washing their hands or using disinfectant more often than before, and 61 percent followed social distancing rules. 22 percent reported stocking basics such as food or water.
Valeria Martinez-Kaigi, health psychologist at Yale School of Medicine, says behavioral changes like these can be based to some degree of fear. Many participants reported that they were prepared because of the possibility of losing their jobs or catching the virus. However, “ fear-based behavior change has not been proven to be sustainable ”. It is predicted that after the initial coronavirus threat passes, new habits such as hand washing, isolating and stacking will return significantly.
But that doesn’t mean they will disappear completely. Those who survive collective traumatic events tend to be particularly vigilant in situations that have burned them in the past. When people find it difficult to respond to a deadly virus, they may be willing to keep future viruses at bay.
Lessons from the Past
The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed about 675,000 people in the United States, significantly increased the rate of hygiene. In the following years, signs bearing the message “Spitting is Lawlaw” began to appear in places such as train stations. Covering your cough was considered common courtesy – before the pandemic, these etiquette were almost unheard of.
Kate White, a scientist in the department of behavioral sciences at the University of British Columbia, says that some of the habits we adapted to after COVID-19 will also remain around. “Our vigilance about things like disinfecting surfaces – probably will continue,” he says.
New ways to interact with each other – verbal greetings instead of handshakes, video chats instead of conference room groups – will likely continue to some extent. “When we are doing meetings for business, people are not something we said before“ Do we need to meet in person? “They will start to ask.”
But what persists most after a pandemic or any large-scale disaster is a common feeling that the world and life are fundamentally unpredictable, that we feel that life is more fragile than it once was.
Behavioral theory, popular with behavioral scientists and economists, states that we often put more weight in determining potential losses than gains and tend to overestimate the chances of an unexpected event, such as the outbreak of a particular disease. After a disaster, some people tend to believe that a threat is imminent.
A milestone like this could also reiterate broader positions on how government should address public health issues. “If there’s one thing that can underline the interdependence we all have, that’s exactly what it is,” says Suzanne Mettler, a Political Scientist at Cornell University.
Mettler also says that our new adoption of this interdependence may lead us to demand a more supportive social safety net. If hundreds of thousands of Americans die from COVID-19, and if people decide that better health coverage can prevent many of these deaths, a universal healthcare system may seem like an urgent requirement for more people.
Past pandemics have led to dramatic government shifts. After British colonial officials failed to protect India from the worst of the 1918 flu epidemic, population anger had fueled the Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. “ It is possible that fighting the coronavirus could inspire the pursuit of this type of unity in the US and elsewhere, ” Mettler says. “We assume that an epidemic will be something that can do this, it’s like fighting in many ways. The enemy is disease. ”
Mettler points out that even after an epidemic, it will be difficult to displace the extreme polarization and insecurity that has divided Americans for years. However, we see some degree of post-pandemic solidarity potential, even as our white, philosophical differences persist. “People appreciate that if we all act at the same time we can see big changes”.