Pandemic exposure and long‐run psychological well‐being

Chao MA, Yiwei LI, Wenxin JIANG, Xing ZHANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Using individuals' life history information from a large-scale national survey (N = 13,044), we causally evaluate how exposure to SARS-Cov-1, the first global pandemic in the 21st century, affects long-term psychological well-being. We find that exposure to local pandemic risk, that is, local deaths due to the pandemic, significantly reduced people's mental health 12 years later. Consistent with the belief-based account of depression, exposure to pandemic risk resulted in more pessimistic beliefs about the future and survival probability. People reduced savings and increased hedonic consumption, suggesting a “carpe diem” effect of the pandemic exposure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic Inquiry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the comments by the editor, the data editor, two reviewers, Hongqiao Fu, Yunfeng Lu, Ju Shi, Zhengxiu Sun, Chengwei Wang, and seminar participants at Chongqing University, Jinan University, Peking University, and Shandong University. Special appreciation goes to Ze Song for his invaluable assistance with data processing. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 72074045), the Faculty Research Grant (DB22A6) at Lingnan University, and the Summer Research Grant at Sungkyunkwan University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Western Economic Association International.


  • belief formation
  • carpe diem
  • pandemic
  • psychological well-being
  • risk perception


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