Democracy and the Covid-19 Pandemic. A Cross-Country Perspective within Cultural Context

  • Monica Violeta Achim Babeș‐Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Viorela Ligia Văidean Babeș‐Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Sorin Nicolae Borlea Babeș‐Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, University of Oradea, Romania, West Vasile Goldis University, Arad, Romania
  • Decebal Remus Florescu Babeș‐Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Neli Muntean Technical University of Moldova, Chișinău, Republic of Moldova
Keywords: Democracy, COVID-19, Culture, High Income, Low Income


Our paper investigates the influence of democracy upon the spread of COVID-19. For the purpose of our study we use a sample consisting of 185 worldwide countries affected by the spread of the new coronavirus disease (54 high income and 131 low income countries). First, we find that in high income countries, higher levels of democracy reduce the spread of COVID-19 while in the low income countries its influence is exactly the opposite. Second, we find clear evidence that three dimensions of culture (individualism versus collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity versus femininity) influence people’s behaviour in relation with the spread of COVID-19 in a large manner. This study’s addressability is wide, from regular people to top policymakers, through their common goal of limiting this pandemic and all the negative effects it brings along. Our findings are important as their policy implications suggest that democracies perform badly for the poorest people and what can be done to improve their record.


Achim, M. V., Borlea, N. S., & Văidean, V. L. (2020). Corruption and health outcomes within an economic and cultural framework The European Journal of Health Economics, 21, 195-207.

Achim, M. V., Safta, I. L., Văidean, V. L., Muresan, G. M., & Borlea, N. S. (2021). The impact of covid-19 on financial management: evidence from Romania. Economic Research Ekonomska Istraživanja.

Afsahi, A., Beausoleil, E., Dean, R., Ercan S. A. & Gagnon, J. P. (2020) Democracy in a Global Emergency Five Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Democratic Theory, 7(2), v–xix.

Akerman, M., Moyses, S. T., Franco de Sá, R. M. P., Mendes, R., Nogueira, J. A. D., Zancan, L., Manoncourt, E., & Wallerstein, N. (2019). Democracy and health promotion, Health Promotion International, 34(S1), March 2019, i1–i3.

Albert, I., & Trommsdorff, G. (2014). The role of culture in social development over the life span: an interpersonal relations approach. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 6(2), 1-30.

Allen, L. N., Nicholson, B. D., Yeung, B. Y. T., & Goiana-da-Silva, F. (2020). Implementation of noncommunicable disease policies: a geopolitical analysis of 151 countries. Lancet Glob Health, 8, e50–58.

Anderson, R.M., Heesterbeek, H., Klinkenberg, D., & Hollingsworth, T. D. (2020), How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?, The Lancet, 395(10228), 931-934.

Annaka, S., & Higashijima, M. (2017). Democratization and Human Development. Winpec Working Paper Series No. E1712. Tokyo: Waseda Institute of Political Economy, Waseda University.

Ataguba, O. A., & Ataguba, J. E. (2020), Social determinants of health: the role of effective communication in the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries, Global Health Action, (13)1, 1788263.

Berengaut, A. A. (2020, February). Democracies Are Better at Fighting Outbreaks, The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Breuer, C. (2015). Unemployment and Suicide Mortality: Evidence from Regional Panel Data in Europe. Health Economics, 24(8), 936-950.

Brown, D., & Hunter, W. (2004). Democracy and Human Capital Formation. Comparative Political Studies, 37(7), 842- 864.

Bollyky, T. J., Templin, T., Cohen, M., Schoder, D., Dieleman, J. L., & Wigley, S. (2019). The relationships between democratic experience, adult health, and cause-specific mortality in 170 countries between 1980 and 2016: an observational analysis. Lancet, 393, 1628–1640.

Cheibub, J. A., Gandhi, J., & Vreeland, J. R. (2010). Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited. Public Choice, 143(2-1), 67-101.

Dutta, U. P., & Gupta, H. (2019). ICT and health outcome nexus in 30 selected Asian countries: Fresh evidence from panel data analysis. Technology in Society, 59, 101184, 1-7.

Economist Intelligence Unit. (2019). Democracy index. Retrieved from

Franco, A., Álvarez-Dardet, C., & Ruiz, M. T. (2004). Effect of democracy on health: ecological study. BMJ, 329, 1421–1423.

Gaskell, J., & Stoker, G. (2020) Centralized or Decentralized - Which Governance Systems are Having a “Good” Pandemic?, Democratic Theory, (7)2, 33–40.

Gerring, J., Thacker, S. C., & Alfaro, R. (2012). Democracy and Human Development. The Journal of Politics, 74(1), 1-17.

Gettysburg Foundation. (2020). Democracy. Retrieved March 25, 2020 from

Gondauri, D., & Batiashvili M. (2020). The Study of the Effects of Mobility Trends on the Statistical Models of the COVID 19 Virus Spreading. Electronic Journal of General Medicine, 17(6), em243.

Habyarimana, J., Humphreys, M., Posner, D. N., & Weinstein, J. M. (2007). Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision?. American Political Science Review, 101(4), 709-725.

Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing cultures: the Hofstede model in context. Online Read. Psychology and Culture, 2(1), 1-26.

Hofstede Insights. (2020). Compare countries. Retrieved May 10, 2020 from

Javidan, M., House, R. J., Dorfman, P. W., Hanges, P. J., & De Luque, M. S. (2006). Conceptualizing and measuring cultures and their consequences: a comparative review of globe’s and Hofstede’s approaches. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6), 897–914.

Jovančević, A., & Milićević, N. (2020). Optimism-pessimism, conspiracy theories and general trust as factors contributing to COVID-19 related behavior – A cross-cultural study, Personality and Individual Differences, 167, 110216.

Justesen, M. K. (2012). Democracy, dictatorship, and disease: Political regimes and HIV/AIDS. European Journal of Political Economy, 28, 373–389.

Kaufman, R. R., & Segura-Ubiergo, U. (2001). Globalization, Domestic Politics, and Social Spending in Latin America, World Politics, 53(4), 553-87.

Kavanagh, M. (2020). Authoritarianism, outbreaks, and information politics. The Lancet Public Health, 5(3), E135-E136.

Kawabata, M. (2014). Is collectivism good for health promotion? Experiences of day labourers in Japan, Global Health Promotion, 20(4), 44-51.

Keefer, P., & Khemani, S. (2003). Democracy, Public Expenditures and the Poor. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 34.

Kudamatsu, M. (2012). Has democratization reduced infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa? Journal of the European Economic Association, 10, 1294-1317.

Landrigan, P. J., Fuller, R., Hu, H., Caravanos, J., Cropper, M.L., Hanrahan, D., Sandilya, K., Chiles, T.C., Kumar, P., & Suk, W. A. (2017). Pollution and Global Health – An Agenda for Prevention. Environmental Health Perspectives, 126(8), 084501-084506.

Liotti, G., Musella, M., & D’Isanto. (2018). Does democracy improve human development? Evidence from former socialist countries. Eastern Journal of European Studies, 9(2), 69-87.

Maiti, D., & Awasthi, A. (2020). ICT Exposure and the Level of Wellbeing and Progress: A Cross Country Analysis. Social Indicators Research, 147, 311–343.

Marshall, M. G., & Gurr, T. R. (2020). Polity 5: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2018 (Center for Systemic Peace).

Miller, M. K. (2015). Electoral Authoritarianism and Human Development. Comparative Political Studies, 48(12), 1526-1562.

Mirza, N., Rahat, B., Nagvi, B., Kumail, S., & Rizvi, A. (2020). Impact of Covid-19 on corporate solvency and possible policy responses in the EU. The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance.

Napier, A. D., Ancarno, C., Butler, B., Calabrese, J., Chater, A., & Chatterjee, H. (2014). Culture and health. The Lancet Commissions, 384(9954), 1607–1639.

Norrlöf, C. (2020). Is covid-19 a liberal democratic curse? Risks for liberal international order. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 33(5), 799-813.

Pentecostes, J. U. (1999). Individualism vs. collectivism: Implication for health promotion. Phillippine Journal Psychololgy, 32, 397–402.

Przeworski, A., Alvarez, M. E., Cheibub, J. A., & Limongi, F. (2000). Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990. Cambridge University Press.

Ramos, A. P. (2014). The Politics and the Measurement of Health Inequality in the Developing World. [Doctoral dissertation, University of California]. California Digital Library, 106-128.

Rapeli, L., & Saikkonen I. (2020). How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Democracy?, Democratic Theory, 7(2), 25–32.

Ross, M. (2006). Is Democracy Good for the Poor?. American Journal of Political Science, 50(4), 860-874.

Ruger, J. P. (2005). Democracy and health. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 98(4), 299–304.

Stearns, S. C., & Slifkin, R. T., Edin, H. M. E. (2000). Access to Care for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries. The Journal of Rural Health, 16(1), 31-42.

Stroup, M. D. (2006). Economic Freedom, Democracy, and the Quality of Life. World Development, 35(1), 52–66.

Safaei, J. (2006). Is democracy good for health?. International Journal of Health Services, 36(4), 767–786.

Tefft, N. (2011). Insights on unemployment, unemployment insurance, and mental health. Journal of Health Economics, 30, 258–264.

Thomas, P., & Zelikoff, J. T. (1999). Air pollutants: Modulators of pulmonary host resistance against infection. In S. T. Holgate, J. M. Samet, & R. L. Maynard, (Eds.), Air Pollution and health (pp. 357-379). Cambridge: Academic Press.

United Nations Development Programme (2004). Democracy in Latin America: Towards a Citizens' Democracy. New York.

V-Dem Institute. (2020). Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) High-Level Democracy Indices, University of Gothenburg.

Yue, M., Wang, S., Xie, J., M., P., & Shang, K. (2018). Study about the impact of environmental conditions on respiratory diseases and prediction in Zunyi City. China Environmental Science, 38(11), 4334-4347.

Wigley, S., Dieleman, J. L., Templin, T., Kiernan, S., & Bollyky, T. K. (2020) Democracy and implementation of non-communicable disease policies. The Lancet Global Health, 8(4), 482-483.

Wigley, S., & Akkoyunlu-Wigley, A. (2017). The impact of democracy and media freedom on under-5 mortality. Social Science & Medicine, 190, 237-246.

World Health Organization. (2020). How air pollution is destroying our health.

World Bank Group. (2020). World Bank Data. Retrieved April 10, 2020 from Worldometers. (2020).

Worldometers. Retrieved April 10, 2020 from

Zakaria, F. (1997). The Rise of Illiberal Democracies. Foreign Affairs, 76(6), 22-43.

Zimmermann, K. F., Karabulut, G., Bilgin, M. H., & Doker, A. C. (2020). Inter‐country distancing, globalisation and the coronavirus pandemic. World Economy, 43, 1484–1498.

How to Cite
Monica Violeta Achim, Viorela Ligia Văidean, Sorin Nicolae Borlea, Decebal Remus Florescu, & Neli Muntean. (2021). Democracy and the Covid-19 Pandemic. A Cross-Country Perspective within Cultural Context . International Journal of Business and Society, 22(2), 546-573.