4 psychological effects of Coronavirus (social and individual)
These are the psychological consequences of the spread of this new species of coronavirus.
The new species of coronavirus discovered in the Wuhan region of China, SARS-CoV-2, is going from being a global news story to a true phenomenon affecting most nations of the world politically and economically.
The disease it produces, coronavirus pneumonia, or COVID-19, is seen as a serious threat that especially targets the elderly and people in poor health in general, and is spreading faster and faster, 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 coronavirusThe social psychology of the individual, 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, it must be assumed that both the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (coronaviruses have been known to exist for many years, but not this particular species) and the disease it produces still raise many unanswered questions for the scientific community, which is working against the clock to accumulate as much knowledge as possible about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. to accumulate as much knowledge as possible about their characteristics.
On the other hand, the general population has only recently become aware of the existence of this virus, and the number of people who have been infected is still insufficient to have conducted research focused on how all this influences our behavior.
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 think are to be expected. That said, let's see what they are.
1. The most important factor: hypochondriasis.
Hypochondria is the clearest psychological consequence of phenomena such as the spread of this coronavirus. This propensity to assume that the chances that we are infected or that we are being affected by a disease are very high is more or less latently present in most people, but in some cases it becomes pathological. 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 the 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 an unnecessarily difficult time.
2. The information of power: the importance of rumors
In the face of situations that generate uncertainty, information becomes more valuable than ever. And it is clear that the spread of coronavirus disease fits into this kind of ambiguous situation. There is a lot of speculation about what will happen: something like this has never happened before (because this species of virus has never jumped from animals to humans), and at the same time the media is constantly bombarded with news related to this, often exaggerating about its dangerousness considering how little is known about the health risks it poses.
That is why, unfortunately, these cases of mass infection are capable of harming many people. are capable of harming many people because of the importance given to the rumors.. Rumors are ultimately pieces of information whose value lies in the speed with which they pass from one person to another at the expense 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 actually infected or not (and despite the fact that on many occasions the discrimination they suffer can act as a barrier against contagion, paradoxically).
3. Preference for the small community
Human beings are social animals "by nature", as is often said. However, the fact that we are social does not imply that the societies we want to be part of are very large. 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 the society to being a part of it.We are not only social, but also want to participate almost exclusively in micro-societies, such as the family, for example.
Normally, when fear of pandemics arises, people tend to want to avoid insignificant social relationships, focusing on interaction with those people who are most relevant and with whom they tend to live most (i.e., with whom they are most 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 lifestyle changes.
The expectation that governments will implement policy measures that radically alter the way we live leads to the stockpiling of goods and services. The expectation that governments will implement policy measures that will radically alter the way we live leads to stockpiling of goods, for example, something that can already be seen on supermarket shelves in many 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 not even basic goods are guaranteed.
Ultimately, research shows that humans have a tendency to focus on pessimistic options for the future (out of several possible options that seem reasonable to us). Even if this means losing the opportunity to win, we are more concerned about the risk of losing.
- Avia, M.D. (1993). Hypochondria. Barcelona: Ediciones Martínez Roca S.A.
- Besnier, N. (2009). Gossip and the Everyday Production of Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)