Sociopaths less likely to comply with COVID mask, hygiene and social distancing

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The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, with more than 188 countries and territories affected. It has now infected more than 23.57 million people and claimed over 811,000 lives. There is no cure or vaccine against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but health care measures can help mitigate infections spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among other health agencies, recommend public health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These include proper hand hygiene, physical distancing, and the wearing of masks in public places and even indoors.

Though the recommendations have been going on for months, many people are still not adhering to them, which may explain why there are skyrocketing cases across the globe.

Sociopathic traits and health measures

Now, a new study by researchers from Brazil has found that people who are unconcerned with adhering to measures to mitigate the COVID-19 spread tend to manifest higher levels of traits tied to antisocial personality disorder, which is also known as sociopathy.

Published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the study explored the relationships between antisocial traits and compliance with COVID-19 containment measures.

“Containment measures have been the most effective way to flatten the curve of COVID-19 contamination. However, despite the benefits of slowing the spread of the virus, previous studies found that some people are more likely to comply with these measures than others,” the researchers said.

The study

The team studied more than 1,500 adults in Brazil, between the ages of 18 and 73 years old, who answered facts from the Personality Inventory for DSM-5 (PID-5), the Affective resonance factor of Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy (ACME), and a questionnaire about compliance with containment measures for COVID-19.

Further, the team conducted a latent profile analysis (LPA) to see groups according to their scores on the personality measures. LPA is a person-centered method recommended to investigate different subpopulations according to how similar their scores are.

The study has found that latent profile analyses indicated a two-profile solution – the antisocial pattern profile which presented higher scores in callousness, hostility, deceitfulness, impulsivity, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, and risk-taking.

The study findings revealed that antisocial traits, notably lower levels of empathy and high levels of callousness, deceitfulness, and risk-taking, are directly linked to lower compliance with COVID-19 containment measures.

“These traits explain, at least partially, the reason why people continue not adhering to the containment measures even with increasing numbers of cases and deaths,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

“Exposing oneself and others to risk, even when it can be avoided, is a typical trait for people with antisocial tendencies and with low levels of empathy,” they added.

In a nutshell, the researchers found that those who scored higher on measures of callousness, deceitfulness, hostility, impulsivity, manipulativeness, and risk-taking tended to be less compliant with COVID-19 containment measures, including regular handwashing, wearing a facemask in public, and practicing social distancing.

On the other hand, the participants who had higher empathy levels tended to be more compliant with COVID19 public health measures.

“Our findings can be useful for public health policies, e.g., through screenings that demonstrate an elevation in these traits, interventions can be carried out aiming at greater awareness and consequent compliance with containment measures. We suggest that further studies be carried out investigating the interaction of these traits with other variables,” the team concluded.

Global coronavirus case toll skyrocketing

The global number of confirmed cases had topped more than 23.42 million, which is continuously increasing by the minute. The end of the global pandemic is far from over, and scientists believe that having an effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is the only way to stem the infection.

Globally, more than 811,000 people have died due to COVID-19, while more than 15.25 million have already recovered. The United States remains as the country with the highest number of cases, surpassing 5.73 million since it first reported its COVID-19 case in March. The U.S. has the highest death toll of more than 177,000.

Brazil reports a rapid increase in cases, with more than 3.62 million infections and more than 115,000 deaths. Meanwhile, other countries with a high number of cases include India, with more than 3.1 million cases, Russia, with more than 959,000 cases, South Africa, with more than 611,000 cases, and Peru with at least 594,000 cases.

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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