Coupled Disease-Behavior Dynamics on Complex Networks: A Review


It is increasingly recognized that a key component of successful infection control efforts is understanding the complex, two-way interaction between disease dynamics and human behavioral and social dynamics. Human behavior such as contact precautions and social distancing clearly influence disease prevalence, but disease prevalence can in turn alter human behavior, forming a coupled, nonlinear system. Moreover, in many cases, the spatial structure of the population cannot be ignored, such that social and behavioral processes and/or transmission of infection must be represented with complex networks. Research on studying coupled disease-behavior dynamics in complex networks in particular is growing rapidly, and frequently makes use of analysis methods and concepts from statistical physics. Here, we review some of the growing literature in this area. We contrast network-based approaches to homogeneous-mixing approaches, point out how their predictions differ, and describe the rich and often surprising behavior of disease-behavior dynamics on complex networks, and compare them to processes in statistical physics. We discuss how these models can capture the dynamics that characterize many real-world scenarios, thereby suggesting ways that policy makers can better design effective prevention strategies. We also describe the growing sources of digital data that are facilitating research in this area. Finally, we suggest pitfalls which might be faced by researchers in the field, and we suggest several ways in which the field could move forward in the coming years.

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