Feeling COVID-19: intensity, clusters, and correlates of emotional responses to the pandemic

James Price Dillard, Chun Yang, Yan Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


News of the pandemic has the potential to produce an array of positive and negative emotions, all of which have potent ramifications for subsequent risk to mental and physical well-being. This project sought to assess (a) the intensity of those emotional responses, (b) whether or not it was possible to identify meaningful clusters of emotional reactions, and (c) what social, personal, and communication indices might discriminate among those clusters. An online survey (N = 758) was conducted in April 2020 to assess emotional experiences of the pandemic with respect to fear, anger, sadness, contentment, and hope. COVID-related emotions were much more intense than emotions in everyday life or emotional responses to H1N1. Latent profile analysis produced a four-cluster solution in which two groups reported either high (Labiles) or low intensity of all five emotions (Stoics), and two other groups manifested either mainly positive (Optimists) or mainly negative affect (Pessimists). Profile membership was associated with sex, pre-existing health conditions, social connections to a positive diagnosis, political orientation, and variable patterns of interpersonal and mediated communication. Given the specific patterning of positive versus negative emotions, some groups are at higher risk of emotional sequelae than others. However, the intensity of emotional response in the entire sample, coupled with the negative-stronger-than-positive pattern, suggests the COVID-19 will produce undesirable, non-viral health consequences across the population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Risk Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Strategy and Management


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