Studies have highlighted that fear and anxiety generated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are important psychological factors that affect all populations studied. There is currently still a lack of research on specific amplification factors regarding anxiety and fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite established associations between anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, and cyberchondria, there is currently a lack of empirical data that has investigated the associations between anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, and cyberchondria, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Urgent research is needed to better understand better the role of repeated media consumption concerning COVID-19 in amplifying fear of COVID-19 and COVID-19 anxiety.
The present study investigated the associations between fear of COVID-19, COVID-19 anxiety, and cyberchondria.
A convenience sample of 694 respondents (343 males, 351 females) completed an online survey that included the Cyberchondria Severity Scale, Fear of COVID-19 Scale, Coronavirus Anxiety Scale, Anxiety Sensitively Scale, and Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale. Multiple mediation analyses were conducted using structural equation modeling.
The results showed that Fear and anxiety generated by COVID-19 predicted cyberchondria: β=.39, SE=.04, P<.001, t=11.16, 95% CI [0.31, 0.45] and β=.25, SE=.03, P<.001, t=7.67, 95% CI [0.19, 0.32], respectively. Also, intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety sensitivity mediated the relationship between fear and anxiety generated by COVID-19 with cyberchondria. In reciprocal model, the standardized total effects of the cyberchondria on fear of COVID19 (β = .45, SE=.04, P<.001, t= 15.31, 95% CI [0.39, 0.51]) and COVID-19 anxiety (β = .36, SE=.03, P<.001, t= 11.29, 95% CI [0.30, 0.41]) were statistically significant, with moderate effect sizes. Compared to males, females obtained statistically significantly higher scores of cyberchondria (t=-2.85, P=.004, Cohen's d=.22), COVID-19 anxiety (t(692)=-3.32, P<.01, Cohen's d=.26), and anxiety sensitivity (t=-3.69, P<.001, Cohen's d=.29).
The findings provide further support in better understanding the role of COVID-19 in amplifying cyberchondria. Finally, based on the findings here, cyberchondria must be viewed as a significant public health issue. Importantly, increasing awareness about cyberchondria and online behavior at both individual and collective levels must be prioritized to enhance preparedness and to reduce adverse effects of current and future medical disasters.