Direct and indirect effect of intolerance of uncertainty on distress during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:COVID-19, distress, fear, intolerance of uncertainty, media exposure
Since the coronavirus outbreak influenced the whole population in 2020, many individuals, both directly and indirectly affected, experienced increased levels of distress at that time. Such a global mental health crisis requires identification of key mechanisms which contribute to distress during pandemic. Specificity of COVID-19 outbreak was lack of sufficient information at the beginning and, consequently, a high level of perceived uncertainty. The main aim of this study was to examine the influence of the intolerance of uncertainty to the experienced level of distress during the pandemic. Additionally, influence of media exposure and fear were examined. Total of 740 participants took part in an online study during the coronavirus outbreak in Serbia. Moderately high level of distress was recorded in our sample. About ⅓ of participants were in each group: no distress, moderately high and highly elevated. Results of serial mediation analysis showed that the intolerance of uncertainty had a significant direct effect on distress, but also indirect via fear of COVID-19 and media exposure. Higher levels of intolerance of uncertainty lead to more time spent on media looking for information, and consequently to higher fear and distress levels. Furthermore, it was shown that media exposure also increased the level of fear. Such results emphasized the importance of unambiguous, clear informing during the time of crisis which can decrease uncertainty, and provided some practical implication for media and authorities.
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