COVID-19: Narrative economics, public policy and mental health,
Annie Tubadji, Don Webber, Frederic Boy
VOX CEPR Policy Portal, 10 June 2020
The general public’s mental health can be affected by different public policy responses to a pandemic threat. Italy, the UK and Sweden implemented distinct approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic: early lockdown, delayed lockdown, and no lockdown. This column presents a novel culture-based Development approach using narrative economics of language and Google trend data. It is evident that countries had a pre-existing culturally relative dispositions towards death-related anxiety and their sensitivity to COVID-19 public policy was country-specific. Further, one country’s lockdown policy can affect another country’s mental health, suggesting that policymakers should account for this spillover effect.
The prominent work of Michel Foucault (1954, 1961) opened an important debate about the importance of public mental health policy and the handling of psychiatric institutions. This approach has been widely embraced and has been influential in redefining the social handling of psychopathology (Frank and McGuire 2000a, 2000b). However, the importance of general public policy for general public mental health is not recognised as an issue worth monitoring and planning.