4 Psychological Effects Of Coronavirus (on A Social And Individual Level)


The new species of coronavirus discovered in the Chinese region of Wuhan, SARS-CoV-2, is going from being global news to a true phenomenon that politically and economically affects most nations in the world.

The disease it produces, coronavirus pneumonia or COVID-19, is seen as a serious threat that especially affects older people and people with poor health in general, and is spreading more and more rapidly, following an exponential progression. .

However, between the physical consequences that this virus generates in the human body and the economic and political consequences, there is another level of analysis that must also be taken into account: the psychological effects of the coronavirus both at the level of individual behavior and at the level of collective and social behavior.

The psychological effects of the coronavirus and its disease COVID-19

First of all, we must assume that both the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (the existence of coronaviruses has been known for many years, but not of this specific species) and the disease it still produces. raise many unanswered questions for the scientific community, which is working against the clock to accumulate all possible knowledge about its characteristics.

On the other hand, the general population has only known about the existence of this virus for a very short time, and the number of people who have been infected is still insufficient to have carried out research focused on how all this influences our behavior.

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It is because of these kinds of limitations that what we will see here is basically an outline of the psychological consequences of the coronavirus that, from my perspective as a psychologist, I believe are to be expected. That being said, let’s see what they are.

1. The most important factor: hypochondria

Hypochondria is the clearest psychological consequence of phenomena such as the spread of this coronavirus. This propensity to assume that the probability that we are infected or that a disease is affecting us is very high is more or less latently present in most people, but In some cases it becomes something pathological, which appears in the diagnostic manuals of psychiatry and clinical psychology

It is true that this new version of coronavirus that has become transmitted between humans is much more contagious than the seasonal flu, but it is also true that exposure to constant alarmist messages can cause many people to have a really bad time unnecessarily.

Psychological effects of coronavirus

2. Information of power: the importance of rumors

In situations that generate uncertainty, information becomes more valuable than ever. And it is clear that The spread of the coronavirus disease fits that kind of ambiguous situation in which there is a lot of speculation about what will happen: something like this has never happened (because this species of virus had never jumped from animals to humans), and at the same time the media is constantly bombarded with news related to this, many times exaggerating about its danger considering how little is known about the health risks it poses.

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That is why, unfortunately, these cases of mass contagion They are capable of harming many people because of the importance given to rumors Rumors are ultimately pieces of information whose value lies in the speed with which they pass from one person to another at the cost of not having been validated, contrasted with the rigor they deserve.

And that explains why they tend to overlap with stereotypes, making marginalized minorities and the most excluded people and residents of small communities more likely to be stigmatized, whether they are really infected or not (and despite the fact that in many cases the discrimination they suffer can act as a barrier against contagion, paradoxically).

3. The preference for the small community

Human beings are social animals “by nature”, as they say. However, just because we are social does not mean that the societies we want to be part of are very extensive. In fact, the changes that occur in the context are capable of making us turn quickly in this direction going from participating in broad sectors of society to wanting to participate almost exclusively in micro-societies, such as the family.

Normally, when fear of pandemics arises, people tend to want to avoid insignificant social relationships, focusing on interaction with those who are more relevant and with whom they tend to live more (that is, with whom they are more likely to be exposed. to the same people, minimizing the risk of contagion).

4. Emphasis on long-term thinking

Another psychological consequence of the coronavirus also has to do with the fear of radical changes in lifestyle.

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The expectation that governments will implement policy measures that radically alter the way we live They lead to stockpiling of goods, for example something that is already noticeable on the shelves of supermarkets in several countries. And sometimes the fear is not so much of the measures adopted by politicians, but of a situation of lack of control in which even basic goods are not guaranteed.

Ultimately, research shows that human beings tend to focus on pessimistic options for the future (within several possible options that seem reasonable to us). Although this means losing the opportunity to win, we are more concerned about the risk of losing.