Communication During a Pandemic

Francis Annan and Belinda Archibong 


We show that communication interventions – which have become globally pervasive during the COVID-19 pandemic – promote individuals’ consumption and psychological well-being. Partnering with a major telecommunication company, we field communication programs that provide either a “lump-sum mobile phone calling credit” or “monthly tranches of mobile phone calling credit” to a nationally representative set of low-income adults in Ghana during the crises. Individuals’ inability to make unexpected calls, unexpected need to borrow airtime, and to seek digital loans decreased dramatically relative to a control group. As a result, the programs led to a significant decrease in mental health (-9.8%) and the likelihood of severe mental distress by -2.7 percentage points (quarter the mean prevalence), with null impact on consumption expenditure. Monthly mobile credits are more likely than lump-sum mobile credits to “sustain” larger impacts, suggesting that individuals may face time inconsistency and /or social pressure problems. We emphasize the value of communication and need for many installments of communication transfers during pandemics.

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