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There are still a considerable number of unknowns about the coronavirus – we have difficulty understanding what affects the severity of some cases, why other people remain asymptomatic, and why most people experience only part of the full list of symptoms. However, one thing is crystal clear in the data: older people are most at risk from COVID-19. A disproportionate number of deaths are recorded among those over 65 years of age.
For this reason, many countries have implemented strategies to minimize the risks for older people and appeals have been made to the public that focus on protecting older family members. But do older people do their part to protect themselves? Not really, according to a study that analyzed survey data from dozens of countries.
Do you follow advice?
The work was carried out by Jean-François Daoust, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Daoust used a huge collection of survey data obtained from YouGov and Imperial College London. The data set is enormous. While Daoust had to exclude India and China, where the population surveyed was not representative of the country's demographics, he still had over 72,000 people in 27 countries (Africa is not represented in particular, and the only South American country is Brazil). His main conclusions will be drawn from the data as a whole. Daoust also conducted country and region level analyzes to look for different attitudes.
Its basic handling of the data is quite simple. He treats various questions in the survey as a means of determining whether people are following the advice of public health experts. He then checks whether compliance with these health recommendations changes with age.
Among other things, the survey asked questions about whether people are willing to isolate themselves when symptoms occur and if they were asked to do so by a government official or health professional. There were also a number of questions about certain behaviors, such as wearing a face mask or passing guests. Daoust combined the two into a behavior index and analyzed them individually.
What would he expect? In an ideal world, older people would be aware of their increased risk and would act accordingly, so if we were to plan them against age, compliance with health advice would increase. However, it is not clear whether Daoust is optimistic to see this pattern. "If my grandmother were alive," he wrote in the introduction, "it would have been very difficult to convince her not to play cards in the social club, even if the head of government (for whom she voted!) Was." asking older people to stay at home. "
At best neutral
As you may hope, with the onset of symptoms, self-isolation increased with age. So up to the age of 75 there was a sudden downward trend. (Data for people over 80 are questionable because so few were included in this survey.) People were more likely to consent to self-isolation when asked to do so by a health professional or government, even at a young age. However, the willingness to do so gradually increased until the age of 60. At that point, it went flat.
Are those who are most at risk involved in self-protection behavior beyond self-isolation? Yes and no. If you average all behaviors, the answer is emphatically no, because the trend with age is indistinguishable from flat. However, there are some specific behaviors with clear and positive trends: avoiding public transportation and small gatherings, and not taking over guests. But people have more than offset this by their willingness to wear masks, which is highest in the 20-30 age group and falls from there. This turned out to be the strongest age association in the survey data.
To verify that these results were sound, Daoust revised the analysis several times, for example, to check how long different countries were involved in the pandemic, and to look for differences between countries or within a country. None of these changed the results significantly.
This doesn't seem to be a question of awareness of their status. Daoust quotes a Pew survey of US citizens that older people are more likely to view COVID-19 as a serious crisis and threat to human health. Given the frequency with which health authorities in other countries emphasize this, it is likely that the United States is not unique in this regard. However, these people do not seem to respond to this knowledge.
With the video emerging from crowded bars and swimming areas, there is a bit of public awareness that the problems of the United States are driven by a younger generation who are indifferent to protecting older people. While there is one element of it – most measures increase with age and climax near retirement – the results show that the problem extends well beyond the U.S. and that older people are not necessarily interested in themselves to help.
PLOS ONE, 2020. DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0235590 (About DOIs).