Understanding factors that influence information seeking, assessment of risk and mitigation behaviors is critical during a public health crises. This longitudinal study examined the influence of self-reported mental health during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic on information seeking, risk perception and perceived mask wearing ability. Mental health screener items included fear, anger, and hopelessness in addition to avoidance, diminished functional ability and global distress. Theoretical models inform hypotheses linking mental health items and outcomes.
The research employed a longitudinal 6-state 3-wave online panel survey, with an initial sample of 3,059 participants (2,232 included in longitudinal analyses). Participants roughly represented the states’ age, race, ethnicity, and income demographics.
Women, those who identified as Hispanic/Latinx, Black Americans and lower income participants reported higher overall rates of distress than others. Information seeking was more common among older persons, Democrats, retirees, those with higher education, and those who knew people who had died of COVID-19. Controlling for such demographic variables, in multivariable longitudinal models that included baseline mental health measures, distress and fear were associated with increased information seeking. Distress and fear were also associated with increased risk perception, and feelings of hopelessness were associated with lower reported mask-wearing ability.
Results advance understanding of the role mental health can play in information seeking, risk perception and mask wearing with implications for clinicians, public health practitioners and policy makers.
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Springer Science + Business Media
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- BMC Psychology
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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