I came across this interesting “Understanding America Study” that surveys people on many different topics related to coronavirus, including their perceived chance of dying if they catch it. (Select “Coronavirus Risk Perceptions” from the drop-down menu, then use the lower, right-hand drop-down box to sort by demographic).
On average, people still think that they have a 14% chance of dying from coronavirus. Sorting this by age, you can see that those under 40 think that they have around an 11% chance of dying, while 40–50-year-olds think their chance of dying is around 12%.
We know that the CDC’s current best estimate of the Infection Fatality Ratio (IFR) for those 20-49 is 0.02%. This means that people under 50 are overestimating their perceived chance of death as 500-600 times greater than it actually is.
This explains so much of people’s behavior. If they truly think that they have more than a 10% chance of dying if they catch the virus, then all of their endless panic and fear would be justified (of course, their misconception can largely be blamed on the media serving them a never-ending stream of panic-porn without providing proper context).
Also noteworthy is how ridiculously high this number was at the beginning of the pandemic, and how it has not substantially changed. Perceived chance of death for those under 40 briefly peaked at 25% in early April, and has been in the low-teens since July. For those 40-50, it peaked at 36% and has mostly stayed in the high teens since May.
Older groups still vastly overestimate their risk as well. 51-64-year-olds think their perceived chance of dying is around 18% (down from a high of 44% at the end of March). The CDC estimates the 50-69 IFR is 0.2%. So they are overestimating their perceived risk by 90 times.
Those over 65 think their perceived chance of dying is around 25% (down from a high of 45% at the end of March). The CDC estimates the 70+ IFR is 5.4%. So this group is still overestimating their perceived risk by 5 times.
Long-time skeptics might remember this study from July that showed people’s vast misperception of coronavirus risk (for example, thinking that people under 44 account for 30% of total deaths, when it was actually 2.7%). Sadly, nothing has really changed.
Also interesting is sorting by education. Those with greater education more accurately perceive their chance of dying than those with less education, albeit still nowhere close to reality (college graduates think it’s 9%, compared to 25% for those with only high school education or less).
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