Americans are more worried than ever about coronavirus—but are doing less to combat it

December 17, 2020, 9:14 PM UTC

As if the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. wasn’t proof enough, a new study from consumer data science firm Dunnhumby seems to signal that many Americans have given up when it comes to the virus.

The survey found that U.S. consumers are more worried than ever about the pandemic but are doing less to combat the virus.

“Worry is back with a vengeance,” said Grant Steadman, president of North America for Dunnhumby, in a press release.

Dunnhumby’s “Worry Index” shows that Americans are at their highest level of anxiety about the virus since the pandemic started, with 32% of respondents saying they are “extremely worried about it.”

And yet the results also showed that fewer people in the U.S. are taking action to combat it. Social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing are all down since March, according to the survey. Only 40% of respondents support restaurant and bar closings, versus 69% in March.

U.S. consumers are outliers when it comes to their increased concern. The report, which surveyed more than 42,000 respondents in 21 countries, showed that most nations’ worry levels are below those seen at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Consumers in the U.S. are also losing confidence in institutions, the study found. Faith in the U.S. government’s ability to handle COVID-19 is at all-time low at 18%, down 19 points from the start of the pandemic. Only respondents in Japan and Spain offered lower assessments of their governments’ response.

Americans also have a grim outlook on their economic situation, with more more than half reporting that their finances are in poor shape and 70% saying the country’s economy is weak.

That will translate into lower holiday spending, Dunnhumby says: U.S. consumers plan on spending 25% less on holiday food and 36% less on gifts in 2020 compared with last year. In fact, 10% said they would not be buying any gifts at all.

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