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Does knowledge reduce stress where COVID is concerned?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

The spread of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic has been almost as virulent as the virus itself, thus hampering any efforts from health officials to successfully counter the spread throughout society.  This challenge has existed alongside concern that excessive consumption of COVID media is harming our mental health, with these worries especially prevalent during the early days of the pandemic.

Alas, new research1 from Georgia Institute of Technology and North Carolina State University suggests that this is not such a big deal any longer, and that consuming accurate information about the virus can lessen the levels of stress people feel.

“COVID-19 is a new disease – it’s not something that people worried about before,” the researchers explain. “So we wanted to see how people were responding to, and coping with, this new source of stress.”

Knowledge is power

The researchers quizzed several hundred adults from across the US during March and April.  Central to the survey was a 29-question quiz that aimed to assess the level of knowledge the participants had on COVID.  The idea was to test whether more knowledge of the virus was linked to greater or lesser stress levels.

“We found that knowledge is power,” the researchers explain. “The more factual information people knew about COVID-19, the less stress they had. That was true across age groups.”

Knowledge appeared to reduce the kind of uncertainty that so often leads to stress.  There were also interesting differences demographically among the participants.  The researchers thought that older adults would feel more stressed about the virus due to their greater vulnerability to it, but that didn’t appear to be the case, with stress actually consistent across age groups.

“The strongest predictor of stress was concern about getting COVID-19, which isn’t surprising,” the researchers explain. “And the older people were, the more pronounced this effect was.”

What older adults did appear to be better at, however, was something the researchers refer to as proactive coping.  This is when we take active steps to reduce the likelihood of stress.  This was both more common, and more effective, in older adults than their younger peers.

“These results suggest that everyone can benefit from staying engaged with factual information that will increase knowledge about COVID-19,” the researchers say. “In addition, older adults who are able to use proactive coping, such as trying to prepare for adverse events, could decrease their pandemic stress.”

Article source: Does Knowledge Reduce Stress Where COVID is Concerned?

Header image source: Piqsels.

Reference:

  1. Pearman, A., Hughes, M. L., Smith, E. L., & Neupert, S. D. (2020). Age Differences in Risk and Resilience Factors in COVID-19-Related Stress. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and Work.com, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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