Younger people may be driving the COVID-19 pandemic in part because they perceive the costs of complying with public health measures as higher and the expected benefits as lower compared with older individuals.
”Indemnifying Precaution: Economic Insights for Regulation of a Highly Infectious Disease,” a paper recently published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, explores how to align costs and benefits so that individuals of all ages adhere to precautions.
Younger people tend to experience less severe symptoms from COVID-19 infection, and may be disproportionately affected by other aspects of the pandemic. These include depression from lack of social interaction, stifled career advancement, and difficulties with providing for dependents. Compared to younger people, older people have a greater chance of being settled down, retired, and not responsible for dependents. As a result, those that receive the least benefit from taking precautions, and incur the greatest personal costs for abiding by these precautions, have a lack of incentive to follow precautionary public health measures. This is known, in economic terms, as a moral hazard.