Covid-19 and the impact on our wellbeing - 48 countries compared

16 March 2021

Dr Taciano Milfont

A University of Waikato academic has played a key role in an international study researching human experience, behaviour and attitudes towards the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Taciano Milfont joined the COVIDiSTRESS global survey which gathered data from participants across the globe in the early months of the pandemic last year.

In a study published in Royal Society Open Science, the team examined stress and worry across over 170,000 respondents from 48 countries.

While there were no clear geographical boundaries, respondents in Western European countries expressed greater stress and worry about Covid-19 and more trust in governments’ effort to handle the crisis than respondents from other countries.

They also found that across countries the more worried people were about the pandemic the more stress they felt. But despite this association, stress and worry related differently to compliance with local prevention guidelines. Overall people were more compliant when they were more concerned about Covid-19 but less stressed.

“The findings suggest that if you are in stress mode, you cannot operate properly. You are too stressed to focus and comply with behavioural guidelines,” said Dr Milfont.

Another notable finding from the survey was the association between stress and trust in the government’s efforts; the more trust people had the less stressed they felt. This is linked to another research paper Dr Milfont co-authored showing trust and confidence in the New Zealand Government increased during the 2020 lockdown.

According to Dr Milfont a notable aspect of the international project, which is led by Associate Professor Andreas Leiberoth from the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University, is the wealth of data that has been made available for anyone to access.

“The international study uses open science principles and provides a rich data set for anyone working in public health or policy, and the data will continue to expand.”

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