Psychological Predictors of Coronavirus Threat and Psychological Distress During a Pandemic




coronavirus threat, psychological distress, worry, self-efficacy


Over a million people have been infected by COVID-19, many have died worldwide, and the virus is still circulating. This has led to widespread anxiety and fear of getting the virus. The purpose of this paper is to investigate psychological factors related to coronavirus threat, fear of getting the virus. The sample (N = 333) consists of adults living in Germany who responded to an online questionnaire on their psychological reactions to COVID-19. Most of the participants were female (66%) with an average age of 35.59 years (SD = 15.23) and have a university degree (46%). Study variables included a measure of coronavirus threat, individual factors such as extent of worry, self-efficacy, and psychological distress. Against the background of stress appraisal theory, a theoretical model was put forth. It was expected that worry would enhance greater distress and coronavirus threat, while self-efficacy was expected to lower distress and coronavirus threat. In turn, coronavirus threat was assumed to be positively related to psychological distress, operationalized as anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Structural equation modeling was used to test the fit between the theoretical model and the data. Various indices of fit indicated an acceptable fit of the data to the model. Findings showed that worry was both directly and indirectly related to distress through coronavirus threat. While threat was positively associated with distress, self-efficacy led to lower distress. Practical implications of the results are discussed for both: mental health and interventions, so that psychological distress may be alleviated in a pandemic environment.