A recent study by King’s Business School has found that nations where “individuals look after each other and the environment” have been better able to confront the climate crisis and Covid-19 pandemic.
Entitled “Climate risk, culture and the Covid-19 mortality: A cross-country analysis”, the paper was published collaboratively by Aydin Ozkan, Gulcin Ozkan, Abdullah Yalaman, and Yilmaz Yildiz on 9 January. The study compared data from 110 countries and linked their Covid-19 mortality rates with “a set of social, economic and health responses to the outbreak of the virus.”
The study found that highly individualistic societies suffered significantly higher mortality rates than collectivist ones, being “… less likely to engage with social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks since they may be less concerned about the favourable impacts of such actions on others.”
The study also found that countries who are better prepared for the climate emergency were better placed to fight the pandemic, and those to whom the climate crisis poses greater threat suffered higher mortality from Covid-19.
Public health capacity in term of expenditure and hospital beds, along with population of elderly people and economic resilience were found to significantly impact Covid-19 mortality rates. King’s said that “the research highlights the need for investment in both climate action and public health infrastructure as key lessons from the pandemic.”
The study concluded that “taken together, our findings point to the crucial need for investment in both climate action and public health infrastructure.”
The research comes as the UK (classed as individualistic by the study) tallied over 100,000 Covid-related deaths on 26 January – the first European nation to surpass this figure according to the BBC.
John Appleby, Director of Research and Chief Economist at the Nuffield Trust, traced government expenditure in the NHS for 70 years, finding a fall from 7.59% of the national GDP in 2011 to 7.26% in 2016 – corresponding to austerity measures in response to the 2008 financial crash. This has contributed to leaving “more than 100,000 NHS posts unfilled” at the time the pandemic hit, according to the Independent.
However, this was after two new variants of the virus were identified in the UK, one originating from the South East region (B.1.1.7) and the other from South Africa (B.1.351). The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US said, “these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalisations, and potentially more deaths.”