Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2021-177
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2021-177

  22 Jun 2021

22 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Multiple hazards and risk perceptions over time: The availability heuristic in Italy and Sweden under COVID-19

Giuliano Di Baldassarre1, Elena Mondino1, Maria Rusca1, Emanuele Del Giudice2, Johanna Mård1, Elena Ridolfi1, Anna Scolobig3,4, and Elena Raffetti5 Giuliano Di Baldassarre et al.
  • 1Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 2Psychiatry Northwest, Region Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Institute, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • 4International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Vienna, Austria
  • 5Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract. The severe impact of global crises, such as COVID-19 and climate change, is plausibly reshaping the way in which people perceive risks. In this paper, we examine and compare how global crises and local disasters influence public perceptions of multiple hazards in Italy and Sweden. To this end, we integrate information about the occurrence of hazardous events with the results of two nationwide surveys. These included more than 4,000 participants and were conducted in two different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic corresponding to low (August 2020) and high (November 2020) levels of infection rates. We found that, in both countries, people are more worried about risks related to experienced events. This is in line with the cognitive process known as availability heuristic: individuals assess the risk associated with a given hazard based on how easily it comes to their mind. Epidemics, for example, are perceived as less likely and more impactful in Italy compared to Sweden. This outcome can be explained by cross-country differences in the impact of, and governmental responses to, COVID-19. Notwithstanding the ongoing pandemic, people in both Italy and Sweden are highly concerned about climate change and they rank it as the most likely threat.

Giuliano Di Baldassarre et al.

Status: open (until 19 Aug 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2021-177', Anonymous Referee #1, 23 Jul 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on nhess-2021-177', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 Jul 2021 reply

Giuliano Di Baldassarre et al.

Data sets

Nationwide surveys conducted in Italy and Sweden Elena Mondino et al. https://github.com/elenamondino/nationwide_survey

Giuliano Di Baldassarre et al.

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Short summary
COVID-19 is affecting humankind in an unprecedented way, and it is changing how people perceive multiple risks. In this paper, we compare public risk perceptions in Italy and Sweden in two different phases of the ongoing pandemic. We found that people are more worried about risks related to recently experienced events. This finding is in line with the availability heuristic: individuals assess the risk associated with a given hazard based on how easily it comes to their mind.
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