The prosociality of married people: Evidence from a large multinational sample

Sylvie Borau, Hélène Couprie, and Astrid Hopfensitz


Single people are more likely to die from COVID-19. Here we study whether this higher death rate could be partly explained by differences in compliance with protective health measures against COVID-19 between single and married people, and the drivers of this marital compliance gap. Data collected from 46,450 respondents in 67 countries reveal that married people are more likely to comply with protective measures than single people. This marital gap in compliance is higher for men (approximately 5%) than for women (approximately 2%). These results are robust across a large range of countries and independent of country level differences with respect to culture, values or infection rates. Prosocial characteristics linked to morality and social belonging explain more than 38% of the marital gap, while individual risk perceptions play a minor role. These findings help explain single people’s and particularly single men’s greater vulnerability to COVID-19, which in turn can be leveraged to improve the effectiveness of international public policy campaigns aimed at promoting protective health measures.

Published in

Journal of Economic Psychology, vol. 92, n. 102545, October 2022