Optimism and social resilience: social isolation, meaninglessness, trust, and empathy in times of covid-19
School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of an existential threat, we conducted a nationwide survey in March 2020 asking 445 Americans about their hopes and fears, their opinions about the coronavirus pandemic, and their attitudes for getting through the public health crisis. In the present research, we examine the coronavirus pandemic as a complex problem and explore its effects on respondents’ levels of optimism to resolve the public health crisis. While much existing research examines the influence of risk perception on optimism, we specifically measure how respondents’ levels of empathy and trust affect social resilience and relate to hopes and fears for their personal health and public health in the United States. Specifically, we examine respondents’ levels of trust in government and their neighbors as well as their levels of empathy, alienation, and social isolation. Our research confirmed the importance of empathy to counter the spread of the virus while preventing economic collapse. In addition, we found that relational factors such as alienation and trust affect individuals’ levels of optimism or pessimism for getting through the public health crisis.
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