No, it is not the contacts of young people that favor the spread of Covid-19

No, it is not the contacts of young people that favor the spread of Covid-19


According to some simulations, the sociality typical of Italian culture weighed more in the contagion of the elderly, more than inter-generational encounters, often pointed out as a vehicle

(Photo by Salvatore Laporta / KONTROLAB / LightRocket via Getty Images ) It is not - or at least only partially - very young people who have favored the contagion of Covid-19 in the elderly population. This is demonstrated by a study on the spread of the coronavirus in the first wave of the pandemic in Italy. The research reveals that the number of contacts and social encounters they had had much more weight in the transmission of the virus among the elderly, rather than exchanges and interaction with people of a younger age. In short, the cause of the infections would be to be found in the intense sociality of the Italians more than in the relationships with children, instead often labeled almost as "greasers". The results, based on simulations and obtained by the universities of Trento, Bologna and the Sorbonne, are published in Plos One.

How important is the family

The research also photographs the situation of Germany and the United Kingdom, comparing the number of Covid-19 cases and the structure of social contacts. In Italy in the first wave there were more infected than in the other two countries. Many have also attributed this phenomenon to the stronger network of Italian families, sometimes extended, in which it is not uncommon for grandparents and grandchildren and elderly parents with young children to live together or otherwise meet often. The scientists of Trento and Bologna wanted to see clearly in order to understand the weight of this intergenerational interaction.

To do this, they considered some national data such as the average number of interactions of a certain age group, the age distribution of the people with whom these groups of people come into contact. They then carried out simulations, with a mathematical model, to link this information with the number of Covid-19 cases, always divided by age and for all 3 countries. These are obviously mathematical simulations and not an investigation into the territory of the branching of the infections (this would be tracing, an analysis process that jumped in the strong waves of the pandemic). “We specifically examined the role of three characteristics of social networks - explains Lucas Sage, PhD student at the universities of Trento and Sorbonne, first author of the study -. The 'degree distribution', i.e. how many face-to-face contacts people have on average in the three different countries; the 'age-mixing', that is the age differences of the people you meet; 'clustering', that is the tendency of people to share the same contacts in social networks ".

The number of social contacts weighs more

From the simulation it emerged that the age difference , therefore, the fact that different generations are together has a relative weight (but not null), while what is important, for the contagion, is the total number of face-to-face contacts between people. In general, in the greatest number of Italian Covid-19 cases, the number of daily social meetings is very important, which is higher than that recorded in Germany and the United Kingdom.

It is known or perhaps it is partly prejudice, but at least today it seems confirmed: we Italians have a very active social life and we tend to touch and embrace ourselves more than other European populations. "These results - the authors write in the text - are in contrast with part of the discussion held by the media and academia, so intergenerational contacts have played an important role in explaining the differences between countries". The results must in any case be taken with caution, also because they are the result of simulations, and do not in any way invite to loosen the protective measures, such as the use of masks or distancing, even within the family network and regardless of age. .

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