Anxiety and safety behavior usage during the COVID-19 pandemic: The prospective role of contamination fear

Kelly A. Knowles, Bunmi O. Olatunji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

© 2020 The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has broadly increased anxiety and changed individual behavior. However, there is limited research examining predictors of pandemic-related changes, and the majority of existing research is cross-sectional in nature, which limits causal inference. Given functional links with disease avoidance processes, individual differences in contamination fear may be especially relevant in predicting responses to COVID-19. Accordingly, the present study prospectively examines contamination fear and obsessive-compulsive washing symptoms as predictors of anxiety and safety behaviors in response to COVID-19 in a student sample (N = 108). To examine specificity, anxiety and safety behaviors in response to seasonal influenza are also examined. In the early stages of the pandemic (March 2020), coronavirus-related anxiety was higher than flu-related anxiety (d = 1.38). Obsessive-compulsive washing symptoms also increased from before the pandemic (d = 0.4). Although baseline contamination fear and obsessive-compulsive washing symptoms did not significantly predict coronavirus-related anxiety, contamination fear did significantly predict safety behavior usage in response to both COVID-19 and influenza. The specificity of the prospective association between contamination fear and the use of safety behaviors are discussed in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the broader literature on the role of safety behaviors in anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Volume77
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Anxiety and safety behavior usage during the COVID-19 pandemic: The prospective role of contamination fear'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this