Are Happier People More Compliant? Global Evidence From Three Large-Scale Surveys During Covid-19 Lockdowns

PsyArXiv Preprints

Authors: Prof. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve Dr. Christian Krekel

Christian Krekel, Sarah Swanke, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Daisy Fancourt


Around the world, governments have been asking their citizens to substantially change their behaviour for a prolonged period of time, by practising physical distancing and staying at home, to contain the spread of Covid-19. Are happier people more willing to comply with these measures? Using three independent surveys covering about 119,000 adult respondents across 35 countries, including longitudinal data from the UK, we found that past and present happiness predicts compliance during lockdown. The relationship is stronger for those with higher levels of happiness. A negative mood, or loss in happiness, predicts lower compliance. We explored risk-avoidance and pro-social motivations for this relationship, and found that motivations for compliance are not uniformly distributed but dependent on personal characteristics and context: people who are older or have certain medical preconditions seem to be predominantly motivated by risk-avoidance, whereas motivations of people who are less at risk of Covid-19 seem more mixed. Our findings have implications for policy design, targeting, and communication.

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