Fear spreads way quicker than any virus
You’d have to be living under the mother of all rocks to not be aware of the Coronavirus - or to give it its new name, Covid-19 - these past few weeks. Why they felt the need to change its name I will never understand.
Fear is an interesting concept and one that drives many of our behaviours as humans; from the completely rational, to the absolutely absurd. It is proven in almost every study you might care to look at that the biggest fear that us humans have is of death. There are of course many others that have a run in for second place - spiders, heights, public speaking, to name but a few - but one thing I know for sure comes very close to our fear of death and that is the fear of the unknown.
So when the Coronavirus hit the headlines back in late January, naturally it resonated with all of us humans all over this world, stimulating two of our biggest fears: death and the unknown. People are dying from this thing and no one really knows what is going to happen.
A few weeks on and there is no doubt that it has spread at a fairly extraordinary rate; certainly compared to similar outbreaks in the recent past (sars, bird flu, swine flu etc.).
However, the reality of the situation, when studying the stats and figures, is that the mortality rate is largely correlated to age and those who already have underlying health issues. Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s not devastatingly sad for anyone who is unfortunate enough to have contracted Coronavirus themselves or lost a loved one to it. My heart goes out to all those individuals and their families much the same as it does to anyone suffering from cancer, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, dementia and any other of hundreds of cruel illnesses and diseases. It’s all awful and the very worst part of this life we lead, but it’s the same as it has always been. We are mere mortals after all.
I think most of us now are able to rationalise that death from the Coronavirus is unlikely. "Yes, but what about the UNKNOWN!". With that question in mind it is easy to understand why we might feel a level of anxiety at the outbreak, when hearing about limits on travel, major events being cancelled and - more specific to our profession - last week’s significant fall in global stock markets
Fear is ultimately what causes the global stock markets to fall as rapidly as they did towards the end of last week. What many media outlets don't tell you at this point, when markets are falling and people are panicking, is that this is just a temporary decline. The stock market, over the long term, has blissfully ignored World Wars, the 1918 Spanish flu and the more recent Asian Flu in the late 50s.
Once again, despite the Coronavirus being very much the ‘here and now’, the stock market will respectfully doff its cap and then power on for many years to come. This will be nothing more than a mark in history, which sadly took lives and caused temporary disruption, whilst human intuition, the great companies of the world and the global economy will continue to soar.
I am not a doctor or a scientist. But I am an enthusiastic optimist. I therefore naturally believe that this is a huge media play of scaremongering and I also believe that it will pass and be yesterday’s news, sooner rather than later.
My personal views aside, the media, governments, religious leaders et al, know all too well that the quickest thing that has ever spread through humans is fear. This fear is what harnesses and controls the masses and their actions.
In short, don't panic. Stick the course and remain invested. The quickest and easiest thing to spread is fear. Don't let that fear cause you any REAL long term harm.
Alfie Mullan, March 2020