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Adaptive function and correlates of anxiety during a pandemic

Salali, GD; Uysal, MS; Bevan, A; (2021) Adaptive function and correlates of anxiety during a pandemic. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 10.1093/emph/eoab037. (In press). Green open access

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Background and objectives: Most studies to date have focused on the negative aspects of anxiety. Anxiety, however, is an evolved emotional response that can provide protection in the face of risk. Pandemics are characterized by increased mortality risk coupled with future uncertainties, which both cause heightened anxiety. Here, we examine the factors associated with anxiety levels and risk avoidance behaviours during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked how individual time perspectives (future-oriented consideration and attention to present moment experience) affect anxiety in uncertain times, and whether anxiety reduces mortality risk by promoting risk avoidance behaviour. / Methodology: We conducted an online survey in the UK (N = 1088) and Turkey (N = 3935) and measured participants’ generalized and pandemic-related anxiety levels, future-oriented consideration, mindfulness, intolerance of uncertainty, risk perception and risk avoidance behaviours. / Results: We found that people less tolerant of uncertainties had higher levels of pandemic anxiety. Those with higher pandemic anxiety exhibited risk avoidance behaviours more frequently. Mindfulness and increased financial satisfaction reduced pandemic anxiety. People in Turkey reported higher levels of generalized and pandemic anxiety and greater engagement in risk avoidance behaviours than people in the UK. / Conclusions and implications: Our study shows an elevated anxiety response can help mitigate infection risk during pandemics and emphasizes the importance of the underlying situation in understanding whether an anxiety response is adaptive or pathological. Maintaining a healthy level of anxiety can promote engagement in protective behaviours. Therapies addressing anxiety can focus on increasing tolerance to future uncertainties.

Type: Article
Title: Adaptive function and correlates of anxiety during a pandemic
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/emph/eoab037
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoab037
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Foundation for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: anxiety, emotions, mortality, avoidance behavior, pandemics, adaptive functioning, mental concentration, coronavirus pandemic
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10138406
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