Gender Differences in Fear and Risk Perception During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Front Psychol. 2021 Aug 5:12:689467. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.689467. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to suffer from emotional distress. Previous studies suggest that women process and express affective experiences, such as fear, with a greater intensity compared to men. We administered an online survey to a sample of participants in the United States that measures fear of COVID-19, perceptions about health and financial risks, and preventative measures taken. Despite the empirical fact that men are more likely to experience adverse health consequences from COVID-19, women report greater fear and more negative expectations about health-related consequences of COVID-19 than men. However, women are more optimistic than men regarding the financial consequences of the pandemic. Women also report more negative emotional experiences generally during the pandemic, particularly in situations where other people or the government take actions that make matters worse. Though women report taking more preventative measures than men in response to the pandemic, gender differences in behavior are reduced after controlling for fear. These results shed light on how differences in emotional experiences of the pandemic may inform policy interventions.

Keywords: COVID-19; affect heuristic; beliefs; fear; gender differences; health behavior; risk perception.