Commentary on "Different roles of interpersonal trust and institutional trust in COVID-19 pandemic control"

Anna Stefaniak, Michael J. A. Wohl, Frank J. Elgar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An increasing number of epidemiologic studies have identified trust as a social determinant of COVID-19 mortality. Trust influences public compliance with policies aimed at containing the pandemic through physical distancing, wearing masks, and vaccine uptake. However, whilst some forms of trust are public assets (e.g., trust in government), others might be liabilities (e.g., trust in close friends and family members). Contributing to this body of work, Lou et al. (2022) examined associations of trust with COVID-19 fatality rates and willingness to get tested for COVID-19. Using correlation analyses, behavioral experiments, and agent-based modeling, they found institutional trust predicted lower COVID-19 fatality rates and greater willingness to get tested. In contrast, interpersonal trust predicted the speed with which COVID-19 was controlled in the early stages of the pandemic and people's willingness to obey norms preventing the spread of the virus (e.g., decreased nonessential outdoor activity). Investigations such as this offer useful knowledge to public health officials on ways to mitigate a pandemic. This commentary examines the pivotal role of social science in pandemic control, which up to now has been underfunded and overshadowed by the race to develop vaccines. We also highlight the importance of theory, particularly in research on trust, to producing evidence that is replicable and meaningful for policy application.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114765
Number of pages3
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date23 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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