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Functional and dysfunctional fear of COVID-19: a classification scheme

Solymosi, R; Jackson, J; Pósch, K; Yesberg, JA; Bradford, B; Kyprianides, A; (2021) Functional and dysfunctional fear of COVID-19: a classification scheme. Crime Science , 10 (1) , Article 4. 10.1186/s40163-020-00137-2. Green open access

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Abstract

Worry about COVID-19 is a central topic of research into the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper, we present a new way of measuring worry about catching COVID-19 that distinguishes between worry as a negative experience that damages people's quality of life (dysfunctional) and worry as an adaptive experience that directs people's attention to potential problems (functional). Drawing on work into fear of crime, our classification divides people into three groups: (1) the unworried, (2) the functionally worried (where worry motivates proactive behaviours that help people to manage their sense of risk) and (3) the dysfunctionally worried (where quality of life is damaged by worry and/or precautionary behaviour). Analysing data from two waves of a longitudinal panel study of over 1000 individuals living in ten cities in England, Scotland and Wales, we find differing levels of negative anxiety, anger, loneliness, unhappiness and life satisfaction for each of the three groups, with the dysfunctionally worried experiencing the most negative outcomes and the functionally worried experiencing less negative outcomes than unworried. We find no difference between groups in compliance and willingness to re-engage in social life. Finally, we show a difference between the dysfunctionally worried compared with functional and unworried groups in perceptions of risk (differentiating between likelihood, control and consequence). This finding informs what sort of content-targeted messaging aimed at reducing dysfunctional worry might wish to promote. We conclude with some thoughts on the applicability of our measurement scheme for future research.

Type: Article
Title: Functional and dysfunctional fear of COVID-19: a classification scheme
Location: Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40163-020-00137-2
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40163-020-00137-2
Language: English
Additional information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Covid-19, Precautions, Re-engagement, Risk, Wellbeing, Worry
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10122921
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