The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound negative impact on mental health symptoms and daily life functioning across the United States and worldwide. Past work has revealed that perceived stress relates to poorer outcomes, however, little work to date has examined factors that may exacerbate these outcomes, and no work to date has examined this relation in terms of COVID-19. Anxiety sensitivity is a promising individual difference factor that has shown to be related to mental health and functional impairment. Anxiety Sensitivity is also a vulnerability factor related to heightened stress perception.
Therefore, the current study sought to examine the potential moderating role of anxiety sensitivity in the relation between COVID-19 specific perceived stress and global anxiety symptom severity, anxious arousal symptom severity, and functional impairment among 563 adults (58.1% male; Mage = 38.3 years; SD = 12.15).
Results indicated a statistically significant interaction between COVID-19 perceived stress and anxiety sensitivity with global anxiety symptom severity, anxious arousal symptom severity, and functional impairment. Post-hoc analysis indicated that COVID-19 perceived stress was associated with an increased likelihood of clinically significant global anxiety symptom severity and anxious arousal symptom severity at higher levels of anxiety sensitivity.
The current study provides support for the role of anxiety sensitivity in identifying individuals at risk for clinically significant global anxiety symptom severity and anxious arousal symptom severity.