Fear of COVID-19: A risk factor for PTSD in bereaved individuals?
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Introduction: COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly throughout the world, accompanied by a wave of fear of contagion with the disease. High fear of COVID-19 has shown to be associated with high Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptomatology in the general population. As the bereaved are at a high risk of developing PTSD, it is the aim of this study to determine whether fear of COVID-19 moderates the association between PTSD symptom levels in bereaved people at two measurement occasions, namely before (T1) and during (T2) the pandemic. To assess the severity of fear towards COVID-19, the newly developed Fear of COVID-19 Scale (FCV-19S) was used and validated. Methods: At T1 and T2, data of 433 and 130 bereaved adults were collected. The final sample consisted of 127 participants who took part in both measurement occasions. To assess fear of COVID-19 and PTSD symptom levels, the FCV-19S and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) were used. Data analyses included a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and a multiple regression analysis with interaction term. Results: The FCV-19S showed to have high reliability and validity as demonstrated by its internal consistency (α = .85) and strong one-factor solution. The moderation analysis showed that fear of COVID-19 did not significantly affect the association between PTSD symptom levels at T1 and T2 (β = .05, t(126) = .91, p = .36). Discussion: The psychometric testing demonstrated that the FCV-19S was a reliable and valid tool for assessing the severity of fear of COVID-19. Fear of COVID-19 did not show to be a risk factor for increased PTSD symptomatology in bereaved individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further research is essential to determine how bereaved individuals fear COVID-19 in order to provide them with adequate mental health support during the current pandemic.