Why is #stayhome so hard? An Evolutionary Perspective

Victor Rotariu
18 min readApr 15, 2020

In every country, there are news of people breaking #stayhome rules without a good reason. These people expose themselves and others needlessly. These are people going to the beach, partying, gathering for religious purposes and getting married despite unnecessary gatherings being illegal in their regions.

Are these isolated incidents or are they extremes of a collective difficulty to cope with home isolation? How much are people staying at home in reality?

Until now there was no good way to answer that, at least as an individual. Recently Google released mobility data to show how people’s movement patterns have shifted in the pandemic based on phone location data. This shows the changes in movement volume at a population level. It shows the changes in movement to categories of places.

Source: Google Mobility data 29 Mar 2020

This is a selection of countries. We can see that in the U.S.A. there is more movement still than in European countries. Which is to be expected considering restrictions differ depending on State as does the way they have been imposed by the authorities. Also to be expected is that Italy has highest reduction as it has a dire situation and the most severe restrictions.

Looking at an average of these countries we see that people have reduced movement but not as much as theoretically possible.

Of course some people still have to physically go to work, and some have to use public transit for this. And people have to shop, not everybody can buy online. Residential movement is likely people walking around their home which is allowed in most places.

Even taking all this into account, more people are outside than would be strictly necessary. Although this endangers everybody.

Why do we find staying at home so difficult?

Because it is opposite to how we evolved to live.

Homo Sapiens spent 290,000 years of our 300,000 year history as hunter-gatherer bands in the wilderness. We adapted to that ‘primitive’ lifestyle and it has become…

Victor Rotariu

Polymath. Curious. Writing a book on how to create an ideal life for our Paleolithic mind and body