Relational Mobility Predicts Faster Spread of COVID-19: A 39-Country Study

Posted on 14.09.2020 - 04:06

It has become increasingly clear that COVID-19 is transmitted between individuals. It stands to reason that the spread of the virus depends on sociocultural ecologies that facilitate or inhibit social contact. In particular, the community-level tendency to engage with strangers and freely choose friends, called relational mobility, creates increased opportunities to interact with a larger and more variable range of other people. It may therefore be associated with a faster spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Here, we tested this possibility by analyzing growth curves of confirmed cases of and deaths due to COVID-19 in the first 30 days of the outbreaks in 39 countries. We found that growth was significantly accelerated as a function of a country-wise measure of relational mobility. This relationship was robust either with or without a set of control variables, including demographic variables, reporting bias, testing availability, and cultural dimensions of individualism, tightness, and government efficiency. Policy implications are also discussed.


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Salvador, Cristina E.; Berg, Martha K.; Yu, Qinggang; San Martin, Alvaro; Kitayama, Shinobu (2020): Relational Mobility Predicts Faster Spread of COVID-19: A 39-Country Study. SAGE Journals. Collection.


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