A study has proved that the more people know about the novel coronavirus the less pandemic-related stress they end up having.
Researchers from the Ohio State University found that learning more about the virus helped people reduce their feelings of uncertainty — which reduced their stress.
They also found that although increasing age — and corresponding susceptibility to COVID-19 — led to more stress, older adults could combat this by making plans.
This strategy of so-called ‘proactive coping’, however, did not help younger adults.
‘COVID-19 is a new disease — it’s not something that people worried about before,’ said paper author and psychologist Shevaun Neupert of the North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.
‘So we wanted to see how people were responding to, and coping with, this new source of stress,’ she added.
To investigate, Professor Neupert and her colleagues polled 515 US adults — aged between 20–79 — between March 20 and April 19, 2020.
The survey assessed the participants’ levels of stress and anxiety around the pandemic — but also included a 29-item quiz designed to assess how much each volunteer knew about COVID-19.
‘We found that knowledge is power,’ Professor Neupert added.
‘The more factual information people knew about COVID-19, the less stress they had. that was true across age groups,’ she added.
‘Knowledge reduces uncertainty, and uncertainty can be very stressful.
‘Although speculative, it is likely that knowledge about this new virus reduced uncertainty, which in turn reduced feelings of pandemic stress.’
The researchers were surprised to find that pandemic-related stress levels were roughly the same across all age groups — despite how the disease is understood to be particularly dangerous for seniors.
‘The strongest predictor of stress was concern about getting COVID-19. The older people were, the more pronounced this effect was,’ Professor Neupert noted.
However, the findings revealed that adults above the age of 52 benefited from so-called ‘proactive coping’ — making plans as to reduce the likelihood of stress — which helped to counter the anxiety that they felt.
In contrast, this strategy did not appear to confer similar benefits to younger adults.
‘These results suggest that everyone can benefit from staying engaged with factual information that will increase knowledge about COVID-19,’ Professor Neupert said.
‘In addition, older adults who are able to use proactive coping — such as trying to prepare for adverse events — could decrease their pandemic stress.’
The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.