Pandemic fatigue fueled political mistrust and conspiracy beliefs across Europe and the United States, study finds

Many of us found it hard to keep up with official restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on. We experienced pandemic fatigue. And this fatigue led to wide-spread political discontent in Western democracies, according to a new study from Aarhus University, which has now been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Prior research has found that small groups of people have been radicalised and that pandemic fatigue has proven a health challenge, but our new study shows that we are facing challenges far beyond the domain of health or the radicalisation of some groups,” says Michael Bang Petersen, professor of political science at Aarhus University and one of the researchers behind the study.

For instance, broad segments of the public respond that they support protests against the government’s policies, that they are concerned about their own democratic rights or that they believe the government is hiding important information from the public about the coronavirus.

Such political discontent is closely linked with the feeling of pandemic fatigue, according to the study.

“Based on our research method, we can be quite confident that there is not just a correlation between pandemic fatigue and political discontent. Rather, fatigue is a direct cause of political discontent,” says Frederik Jørgensen, assistant professor of political science at Aarhus University and the lead author of the study.

Political and academic debate on ‘fatigue’

During the pandemic, both researchers and authorities have discussed the concept of pandemic fatigue and whether it exists in populations. For one thing, the British government was met with criticism for delaying their lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic based on the exact argument that restrictions could generate fatigue.

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