Fighting Covid: Confinement and Wellbeing

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In August 2020, panelists of the World Wellbeing Panel were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with two statements about the best strategy to fight COVID-19 if we were to take individuals’ wellbeing as the guiding principle for decision making:

(i) “The long-run wellbeing of individuals in countries hit by COVID-19 is best raised through policies aimed solely at one Covid-related goal (like containment or eradication) whilst ignoring the externalities of the containment policies, where externalities include economic and social effects of lockdown”; and

(ii) “On the current balance of probabilities, the Swedish approach to dealing with COVID-19 has resulted in overall wellbeing outcomes to its population that are more favorable than is the case with more intensive lockdown regimes.”

We had 18 wellbeing experts contribute responses. The balance of opinion was a clear disagreement with the first statement (15 disagreed to a more or less extent, while only 3 agreed). There was much more divergence in the second statement, with 8 respondents disagreeing, 4 agreeing, and 6 who neither agreed nor disagreed. While the consensus is fairly large in the first statement, disagreement remains on whether Sweden had gone too far in ignoring lockdown.

List of respondents to this survey


  1. Davies B and Grimes A. 2020. "COVID-19, lockdown and two-sided uncertainty."
  2. Askoy CG, et al 2020, "The Political Scar of Epidemics." NBER Working Paper 27401.
  3. Bartscher AK et al. 2020, "Social Capital and the Spread of COVID-19: Insights from European Countries." IZA DP No. 13310.

About the World Wellbeing Panel