Integrating psychosocial variables and societal diversity in epidemic models for predicting COVID-19 transmission dynamics

Viktor Jirsa, Spase Petkoski, Huifang Wang, Michael Woodman, Jan Fousek, Cornelia Betsch, Lisa Felgendreff, Robert Bohm, Lau Lilleholt, Ingo Zettler, Sarah Faber, Kelly Shen, Anthony McIntosh

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Received date: 21st September 2020

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, governments must make decisions based on a variety of information including estimations of infection spread, health care capacity, economic and psychosocial considerations. The disparate validity of current short-term forecasts of these factors is a major challenge to governments. By causally linking an established epidemiological spread model with dynamically evolving psychosocial variables, using Bayesian inference we estimate the strength and direction of these interactions for German and Danish data of disease spread, human mobility, and psychosocial factors based on the serial cross-sectional COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring (COSMO; N = 16,981). We demonstrate that the strength of cumulative influence of psychosocial variables on infection rates is of a similar magnitude as the influence of physical distancing. We further show that the efficacy of political interventions to contain the disease strongly depends on societal diversity, in particular group- specific sensitivity to affective risk perception. As a consequence, the model may assist in quantifying the effect and timing of interventions, forecasting future scenarios, and differentiating the impact on diverse groups as a function of their societal organization. Importantly, the careful handling of societal factors, including support to the more vulnerable groups, adds another direct instrument to the battery of political interventions fighting epidemic spread.

Read in full at medRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.

Scientific Reports

Nature Research, Springer Nature