Where were the psychologists?

By Dr Juergen Ude | February 15th 2021
The psychological aspect was not considered sufficiently. It is known that stress can result in immune system breakdown. How many deaths were caused through fear of certain death? How many doctors were influenced in their treatment only because they were convinced the virus is a killer. Would they have used ECMO or ventilators if they did not believe the presence of the virus is deadly? What effect did hysteria have. Hysteria does manifest itself physically. Hysteria has caused big disruptions E.g., Y2K bug. What about the copycat syndrome?

The following is only food for thought and no more. It is only meant to encourage research. This all started in Wuhan when 3 atypical pneumonia cases were associated with SARS CoV-2 and one person died. SARS CoV-2 was seen as deadly. Respectfully, that is unscientific, and such conclusion jumping has become part of modern science. Of course, the conclusion may have been right, but there could have been other reasons for the atypical pneumonia, such as Wuhan’s acid rain, which could have damaged lungs.

When the whistle blower went public, assume the Chinese government panicked after the world’s condemnation to its SARS reaction. To impress the world, it locked up Wuhan. (This is just a supposition, because we do not know why the government reacted the way it did). Panic now started locally and globally. Why would China have locked down a city and more after, if the virus were not so deadly? Then everyone copied the response, panic and hysteria set in causing additional deaths, not because of the virus per se, but due to panic, fear, and fear based overwhelming of hospitals etc.

Another area of research is the reluctance by human beings to accept that they may be wrong. When observations support our theories, we tend to refuse to acknowledge that we may be wrong. Denial goes both ways. We seem to want to believe the virus is the deadliest virus since the dawn of time. Hence, we shut off from reality.

There is so much opportunity for researching psychological factors that were part of the pandemic which can help dealing with pandemics better in the future.

Fear is another. Fear clouds thinking. Fear causes irrational decisions. There are several types of fear involved. The real fear of death is one. When a person is faced with death the body goes into flight mode. However, when a person, especially a fearful frail person with comorbidities is told that he or she has a deadly virus that causes many deaths, that person cannot run from the danger. How many people have died from the effects of fear? Some cultures, ethnic groups, and people may be more prone to fear than others explaining differences in deaths in across regions.

Hysteria and fear will result in hospital overwhelming and exaggerated display of symptoms, not unlike the exaggeration expressed when trying to get an emergency medical appointment or requesting a sickie.

According to the SAGE(1) report, approximately 50% of deaths were caused by factors other than the virus itself. That did not even factor in death possibly caused by stressing out a patient through fear.

Advisers and politicians were driven by a different fear, the fear of providing wrong advice and hence took the safe option, which is following precedence. It is easy to understand this fear. If the virus eventuated to be truly deadly then the adviser would be accountable for giving wrong advice with their career and reputation over.

How to manage fear and hysteria is outside our area of expertise and requires input by psychologists.

Urgent research is needed in this area to better manage future pandemics.


Dr Juergen Ude has a certificate in applied chemistry, a degree in applied science majoring in statistics and operations research as top student, a masters in economics with high distinctions in every subject, and a PhD in computer modelling and algorithms. He has lectured at Monash University on subjects of data analysis, computer modelling, and quality & reliability.

Prior to founding his own company (Qtech International Pty Ltd), Dr Ude worked as a statistician and operations researcher for 18 years in management roles having saved employers millions of dollars through his AI and ML algorithms. Through Qtech International, Dr Ude has developed data analysis solutions in over 40 countries for leading corporations such as Alcoa, Black and Decker, Coca-Cola Amatil, US Vision and many more. Additionally he has developed campaign analysis software for politicians.

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