Social alignment matters: following pandemic guidelines is associated with better wellbeing

Tunçgenç, B. ORCID: 0000-0002-1135-1004, Newson, M., Sulik, J., Zhao, Y., Dezecache, G., Deroy, O. and Zein, M.E., 2022. Social alignment matters: following pandemic guidelines is associated with better wellbeing. BMC Public Health, 22: 821. ISSN 1471-2458

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Background: In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries implemented physical distancing measures. Many mental health experts warned that through increasing social isolation and anxiety, these measures could negatively affect psychosocial wellbeing. However, socially aligning with others by adhering to these measures may also be beneficial for wellbeing.
Methods: We examined these two contrasting hypotheses using cross-national survey data (N = 6675) collected fortnightly from participants in 115 countries over 3 months at the beginning of the pandemic. Participants reported their wellbeing, perceptions of how vulnerable they were to Covid-19 (i.e., high risk of infection) and how much they, and others in their social circle and country, were adhering to the distancing measures.

Results: Linear mixed-effects models showed that being a woman, having lower educational attainment, living alone and perceived high vulnerability to Covid-19 were risk factors for poorer wellbeing. Being young (18–25) was associated with lower wellbeing, but longitudinal analyses showed that young people’s wellbeing improved over 3 months. In contrast to widespread views that physical distancing measures negatively affect wellbeing, results showed that following the guidelines was positively associated with wellbeing even for people in high-risk groups.

Conclusions: These findings provide an important counterpart to the idea that pandemic containment measures such as physical distancing negatively impacted wellbeing unequivocally. Despite the overall burden of the pandemic on psychosocial wellbeing, social alignment with others can still contribute to positive wellbeing. The pandemic has manifested our propensity to adapt to challenges, particularly highlighting how social alignment can forge resilience.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: BMC Public Health
Creators: Tunçgenç, B., Newson, M., Sulik, J., Zhao, Y., Dezecache, G., Deroy, O. and Zein, M.E.
Publisher: Springer
Date: 3 May 2022
Volume: 22
ISSN: 1471-2458
Rights: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 05 Oct 2023 15:45
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2023 15:45

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