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Relational Mobility & the Spread of COVID-19
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  • Cristina Salvador,
  • Martha K. Berg,
  • Qinggang Yu,
  • Alvaro San Martin,
  • Shinobu Kitayama
Cristina Salvador

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Martha K. Berg
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Qinggang Yu
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Alvaro San Martin
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Shinobu Kitayama
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Abstract

It has become increasingly clear that COVID-19 transmits between individuals. It stands to reason that the spread of the virus depends on sociocultural ecologies that facilitate or inhibit social contact. In particular, the community-level tendency to engage with strangers and freely choose friends, called relational mobility (RM), entails increased opportunities to interact with a larger and more variable range of others. It may therefore be associated with a faster spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Here, we tested this possibility by analyzing growth curves of confirmed cases and deaths of COVID-19 in the first 30 days of the outbreaks in 39 countries. We found the growth was significantly accelerated as a function of a country-wise measure of RM. This relationship was robust either with or without a set of control variables, including demographic variables, reporting bias, testing availability, and cultural dimensions of individualism and government efficiency. Policy implications are discussed.
Accepted for COVID-19 fast-track publication in Psychological Science
Oct 2020Published in Psychological Science volume 31 issue 10 on pages 1236-1244. 10.1177/0956797620958118