Confidence or disillusionment in government crisis management is an important factor for general mood, said a study by the University of Zurich based on surveys in Israel and Switzerland. In late April, Israelis were twice as disappointed with their government institutions during the pandemic as were Swiss citizens. In Switzerland, certain fatalism is designed to reduce negative feelings.
A socio-psychological clinical study by the University of Zurich has examined the development of negative emotions and moods during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of April researchers interviewed about 600 people from all age groups in both Switzerland and Israel. They first examined the extent of the pandemic-related risks and limitations to daily life experienced to date in each country. No differences between the two countries were found in this regard: According to their own estimates, Swiss and Israeli respondents were both affected by the risk of infection or quarantine measures.
A more negative mood in Israel
Nevertheless, Israel reported finding the situation more aggravating and experiencing more negative feelings than Switzerland. To find out the reasons, this study focuses on perceptions of loss of control, fatalism and feelings of disappointment or betrayal by government institutions themselves. “The main cause of negative feelings and moods associated with Covid-19 is people being disappointed with their own government agencies,” said Prof Andreas Maercker from the Department of Psychology at UZH. “In a threatening situation like a pandemic, people look to public authorities, whose responsibilities include supporting and protecting individuals. If the support provided is insufficient, this is a source of serious concern.”
Loss of control and fatalism
According to the study, interventions that help people feel they can protect themselves from the virus have the potential to mitigate negative effects – but only in Israel. In Switzerland that is not the case. When it comes to accepting one’s own fate, a fatalistic stance is more visible in Israel, but it doesn’t affect how afraid Israelis are of Covid-19. “For Swiss people, however, giving in to fate goes hand in hand with less fear of Covid-19. Therefore, fatalism appears to have a protective effect during the pandemic in Switzerland,” said first author Rahel Bachem. According to the authors, these social psychological differences between the two countries are based on the fact that Israel must live with a sense of permanent threat in its country and therefore generally think more fatalistic, regardless of the current Covid-19 threat. There was no correlation between fatalism and negative mood among the population. This is an interesting scientific finding, as fatalism is generally considered a mental health risk factor in emergency situations. However, this did not happen during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The importance of well-planned crisis management
The study shows how important the actions of government agencies are during a pandemic crisis. For Maercker, this underscores the importance of trust in the government’s crisis measures. In addition, even though Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, prevention and intervention strategies must be adapted to the local context.
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