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COVID-19 safety: Around the world, many of the elderly can’t be bothered

Enlarge (credit: David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There are still a significant number of unknowns about the coronavirus—we’re struggling to understand what influences the severity of some cases, why other people remain asymptomatic, and why most people experience only a subset of its total symptoms list. But one thing has been crystal clear in the data: the elderly are most at risk from COVID-19. A disproportionate number of the fatalities have come in those over 65.

As such, many countries have implemented strategies focused on minimizing the risks for the elderly, and appeals to the public have been made centered around protecting older family members. But are the elderly doing their part to protect themselves? Not really, according to a study that analyzed survey data from dozens of countries.

Following advice?

The work was done by Jean-François Daoust, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Daoust took advantage of a huge collection of survey data obtained by YouGov and Imperial College London. The dataset is enormous. While Daoust had to exclude India and China, where the population surveyed wasn’t representative of the country’s demographics, he was still left with over 72,000 people in 27 countries (Africa is notably unrepresented, and the only South American country is Brazil.) While his main conclusions are drawn from the data as a whole, Daoust also did country- and region-level analyses to look for differences in attitudes.

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