The prospective influence of COVID-19 affective risk assessments and intolerance of uncertainty on later dimensions of health anxiety

J Anxiety Disord. 2020 Oct:75:102290. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102290. Epub 2020 Aug 12.


The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase risk for the development of health anxiety. Given that elevated health anxiety can contribute to maladaptive health behaviors, there is a need to identify individual difference factors that may increase health anxiety risk. This study examined the unique and interactive relations of COVID-19 affective risk assessments (worry about risk for contracting/dying from COVID-19) and intolerance of uncertainty to later health anxiety dimensions. A U.S. community sample of 364 participants completed online self-report measures at a baseline assessment (Time 1) and one month later (Time 2). Time 1 intolerance of uncertainty was uniquely associated with the Time 2 health anxiety dimension of body vigilance. Time 1 affective risk assessments and intolerance of uncertainty were uniquely associated with later perceived likelihood that an illness would be acquired and anticipated negative consequences of an illness. The latter finding was qualified by a significant interaction, such that affective risk assessments were positively associated with anticipated negative consequences of having an illness only among participants with mean and low levels of intolerance of uncertainty. Results speak to the relevance of different risk factors for health anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight targets for reducing health anxiety risk.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Health anxiety; Intolerance of uncertainty; Worry.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Self Report
  • Uncertainty*
  • Young Adult