More economic worries mean less caution about COVID-19
Listen to this article
Workers experiencing job and financial insecurity are less likely to follow the CDC’s guidelines for COVID-19, such as physical distancing, limiting trips from home and washing hands, according to a new study.
The researchers, who surveyed 745 workers in 43 states, also found that state unemployment benefits and COVID-19 policies affected the connection between economic concerns and compliance with COVID-19 precautions.
The study shows that a scarcity mindset can play a role in how well people are able to focus on responding to the pandemic, the researchers said.
What the researchers say: “We all have a finite set of resources at our disposal, whether it’s money, time or social support, and individuals who have fewer of those resources appear less able to enact the CDC-recommended guidelines,” the lead author said. “The extent to which economic stressors will impact that behavior is in part a function of where we live. Having a fall back, a strong safety net to catch you, seemed to help mitigate the risk factors of job insecurity that was otherwise associated with less adherence to the guidelines.”
In states with lower unemployment benefits, job insecurity was associated with a 7% decline in compliance with COVID-19 prevention behaviors.
State-imposed COVID-19 mandates also had a positive effect on compliance but seemed to primarily benefit financially secure workers more. In states that had fewer restrictions on behavior that could spread the disease, workers were less likely to follow the CDC’s recommendations, whether the respondents were financially secure or insecure.
However, in states with a stronger response, including measures such as stay-at-home orders and shutting down non-essential businesses, financially secure employees had 13% higher enactment of the prevention behaviors compared to workers who felt more financially insecure.
These differences could have significant public health ramifications, the authors argue, since research suggests that even modest reductions in social contacts among adults can reduce infection and eventual death rates.
“It’s important to acknowledge as a society that there are certain segments of the population, namely the economically secure, that are better equipped to follow the CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” they said. “This is a red flag since precarious work and financial strain can also co-occur with other COVID-19 risk factors and pre-existing health disparities.”
So, what? The short-termism effect of a scarcity mindset has been noted in previous studies (many detailed in TR). For example, poor farmers in Africa given seed corn to grow more crops almost invariably consume it instead.
This study is also another example of how the huge disparity in income in the US—and elsewhere—is one of the factors allowing the spread of the virus.
Join the discussion
More from this issue of TR
Financially exploited seniors show brain differences and are more frail
The methods that scammers and fraudsters use put a stress on being able to see and hear things accurately - it stands to reason that this would be a mechanism for how older adults might be more vulnerable to financial exploitation.
Job interest not a big predictor of job satisfaction
To be satisfied with a job, you don’t have to worry too much about finding a perfect fit for your interests. As long as it’s something you don’t hate doing, you may find yourself very satisfied if you have a good supervisor, like your coworkers, and are treated fairly.
You might be interested inBack to Today's Research
COVID-19: The downside of social distancing
When faced with danger, humans draw closer together. Social distancing thwarts this impulse. Does this dilemma pose a greater threat to society than overtly antisocial behavior?
Greater well-being comes from smaller social networks
Loneliness is becoming an epidemic in our society affecting people of all ages. Many physical and psychiatric diseases are directly tied to it, including dementia, heart disease and schizophrenia. Without sufficient face-to-face contact the psychic and physical immune systems prepare for death.
Join our tribe
Subscribe to Dr. Bob Murray’s Today’s Research, a free weekly roundup of the latest research in a wide range of scientific disciplines. Explore leadership, strategy, culture, business and social trends, and executive health.