Factors influencing anxiety among WeChat users during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mainland China: Cross-sectional survey study

Changqing Zou, Weiyu Zhang, Kristin Sznajder, Fengzhi Yang, Yajing Jia, Ruqing Ma, Can Cui, Xiaoshi Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The rapid outbreak of COVID-19 around the world has adversely affected the mental health of the public. The prevalence of anxiety among the public has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are few studies evaluating the effects of positive psychological responses and information-seeking behaviors on anxiety experienced among social media users during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: This study evaluated the prevalence of anxiety and its associated factors among WeChat users in mainland China during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: From February 10 to February 24, 2020, a nationwide, web-based cross-sectional survey study was carried out using convenience sampling. Participants' levels of anxiety, positive psychological responses, and information-seeking behaviors were assessed. The survey was distributed among WeChat users via the WeChat smartphone platform. Chi-square tests and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the factors associated with anxiety. Results: This study found that the prevalence of anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item [GAD-7] scale score ≥7) among WeChat users in China was 17.96% (446/2483) during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results of multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that information-seeking behaviors such as cannot stop searching for information on COVID-19, being concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, and spending more than 1 hour per day consuming information about the pandemic were found to be associated with increased levels of anxiety. Additionally, participants who chose social media and commercial media as the primary sources to obtain information about the COVID-19 pandemic were found more likely to report anxiety. Conversely, participants who were confident or rational about the COVID-19 pandemic were less likely to report anxiety. Conclusions: This study found that positive psychological responses and information-seeking behaviors were closely associated with anxiety among WeChat users during the COVID-19 pandemic in China. It might be paramount to enhance mental well-being by helping people respond to the COVID-19 pandemic more rationally and positively in order to decrease symptoms of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere24412
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics

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