Heightened religiosity proactively and reactively responds to the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe : Novel insights from the parasite-stress theory of sociality and the behavioral immune system theory

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

3 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-56
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Online published13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


According to the parasite-stress theory of sociality and the behavioral immune system theory, heightened religiosity serves an anti-pathogen function by promoting in-group assortative sociality. Thus, highly religious countries/territories could have better control of the COVID-19 (proactively avoids disease-threat), and heightened COVID-19 threat could increase religiosity (reactively responds to disease-threat). As expected, country-level religiosity (religion-related online searches (Allah, Buddhism, Jesus, etc.) and number of total religions/ethnoreligions) negatively and significantly predicted COVID-19 severity (a composite index of COVID-19 susceptibility, reproductive rate, morbidity, and mortality rates) (Study 1a), after accounting for covariates (e.g., socioeconomic factors, ecological factors, collectivism index, cultural tightness-looseness index, COVID-19 policy response, test-to-case ratio). Moreover, multilevel analysis accounting for daily- (e.g., time-trend effect, season) and macro-level (same as in Study 1a) covariates showed that country-level religious searches, compared with the number of total religions/ethnoreligions, were more robust in negatively and significantly predicting daily-level COVID-19 severity during early pandemic stages (Study 1b). At weekly level, perceived coronavirus threat measured with coronavirus-related searches (corona, covid, covid-19, etc.), compared with actual COVID-19 threat measured with epidemiological data, showed larger effects in positively predicting religious searches (Study 2), after accounting for weekly- (e.g., autocorrelation, time-trend effect, season, religious holidays, major-illness-related searches) and macro-level (e.g., Christian-majority country/territory and all country-level variables in Study 1) covariates. Accordingly, heightened religiosity could proactively and reactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe.

Research Area(s)

  • Behavioral immune system theory, Big data, COVID-19, Multilevel analysis, Parasite-stress theory of sociality, Religiosity

Citation Format(s)