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Real-world predictors of changes in fear of COVID-19 in the Japanese general population: a large-scale internet-based cohort study with 20,712 participants.

BMC Psychiatry 2024 June 12
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection that considerably impacts both physical and mental health. In particular, the prolonged nature of psychological issues associated with COVID-19 has become a concern. However, evidence based on longitudinal studies investigating the changes in fear of COVID-19 has been limited, posing a public health challenge.

METHODS: We investigated the predictors of changes in the Fear of COVID-19 Scale (FCV-19S) scores in the general Japanese population using data from a large-scale internet-based cohort study.

RESULTS: We included 20,712 study participants (mean age = 51.1 years, percentage of males = 49.9%). The baseline FCV-19S score for the research participants was 17.0, and one year later, the FCV-19S score decreased to 15.8. The predictors of increase in FCV-19S scores were older age, male sex, COVID-19 requiring oxygen therapy, higher baseline FCV-19S total score, severe psychological distress, never married, worsening subjective health status, a greater number of COVID-19 vaccinations, a history of alcohol dependency, and living with family members. Conversely, the predictors of decrease in FCV-19S scores included habitual alcohol intake, COVID-19 not requiring oxygen therapy and a higher household income. Our study was an internet-based survey focused on residents of Japan, which raises the possibility of selection bias and makes it unclear whether the findings can be extrapolated to other countries and cultures.

CONCLUSION: During the observation period, the FCV-19S scores significantly decreased. Severe COVID-19 requiring oxygen therapy within one year of baseline was the most impactful predictor of an increase in FCV-19S score. On the other hand, mild COVID-19 not requiring oxygen therapy was a predictor of a decrease in FCV-19S scores. Therefore, we believe that it is necessary to adopt individualized approaches stratified by the severity of the infection when addressing the fear of COVID-19.

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