Psychological distress in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: the joint contribution of intolerance of uncertainty and cyberchondria.Psychol Health. 2022 Nov; 37(11):1396-1413.PH
To explore the direct and indirect associations between intolerance of uncertainty, health anxiety (HA), and psychological distress through problematic internet use (PIU) and cyberchondria, both before and during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two Italian samples were enrolled via an online questionnaire. Sample 1 (N = 556; 69.3% females, Mage 29.6 years, SD = 13.2) was recruited in non-pandemic times, whereas Sample 2 (N = 575; 74% females, Mage 31.9 years, SD = 13.4) was recruited during the COVID-19 lockdown.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Self-report measures assessing HA and psychological distress.
Two distinct path analyses showed that intolerance of uncertainty was directly associated with HA and psychological distress in both samples. Moreover, cyberchondria partially mediated the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and HA and PIU partially mediated the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and psychological distress in both samples. The link between cyberchondria and psychological distress was significant in Sample 2 but non-significant in Sample 1. The model accounted for a substantial variance of HA and psychological distress in both samples.
Our findings suggest that problematic online behaviors might exacerbate the negative consequences of intolerance of uncertainty in terms of higher levels of HA and psychological distress both in pandemic and non-pandemic contexts.