Individual costs and societal benefits of interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic

Arne Traulsen, Simon A. Levin, Chadi M. Saad-Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Individual and societal reactions to an ongoing pandemic can lead to social dilemmas: In some cases, each individual is tempted to not follow an intervention, but for the whole society, it would be best if they did. Now that in most countries, the extent of regulations to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission is very small, interventions are driven by individual decision-making. Assuming that individuals act in their best own interest, we propose a framework in which this situation can be quantified, depending on the protection the intervention provides to a user and to others, the risk of getting infected, and the costs of the intervention. We discuss when a tension between individual and societal benefits arises and which parameter comparisons are important to distinguish between different regimes of intervention use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2303546120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Prisoner s dilemma
  • Social conflict


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