Existing research suggested gender differences in fear and anxiety about and perceived susceptibility to COVID-19 and previous infectious disease pandemics. We analyzed whether women felt fear and anxiety about and perceived susceptibility to COVID-19 more frequently than men in Japan. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using internet survey data collected during the third wave of the pandemic in Japan. The subjects were enrolled from the Japanese general population: 11,957 men and 11,559 women. Fear and anxiety specifically related to COVID-19 were evaluated with the Japanese version of the Fear of COVID-19 Scale (FoCS). The question "How likely do you think you will be infected with COVID-19?" was used to assess the perceived susceptibility to COVID-19. Women had higher mean (standard deviation) FoCS scores [18.6 (5.6) vs. 17.5 (5.9), d = 0.190] and reported the median or higher FoCS score (57.4% vs. 51.4%, φ = 0.060) and perceived susceptibility (13.6% vs. 11.5%, φ = 0.032) more frequently than men. The odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) adjusted for age, having a spouse, comorbidities, watching commercial TV stations' news programs, employment status, and household income were 1.24 (1.17-1.32) and 1.27 (1.16-1.38), respectively. We observed that women were more anxious and fearful about and perceived the susceptibility to infectious diseases more frequently than men even one year after the pandemic occurred in Japan, although the effect size was small.
Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; fear; gender difference; infectious disease pandemic; perceived susceptibility.