Young adults are overrepresented in terms of adverse mental health problems related to COVID-19. Emerging work has identified worry about the consequences and trajectory of COVID-19 and loneliness as important factors in mental health during the pandemic. However, the main and interactive effects of worry about COVID-19 and loneliness have not been explored in one overarching model in relation to mental health problems among young adults.
The present study therefore evaluated loneliness and COVID-19 related worry in terms of anxiety, stress, and depression among young adults (209 college students, 76.1% female, Mage = 22.99 years, SD = 5.25) recruited to participate in an online survey study.
Results indicated a significant interaction between COVID-19 worry and loneliness for each criterion variable (depression: b = .01, SE = .003, t = 2.86, p = .01; anxiety: b = .01, SE = .002, t = 2.36, p = .02; stress: b = .01, SE = .003, t = 2.54, p = .01), such that worry was more strongly related to each mental health outcome among those that endorsed higher levels of loneliness.
The current findings suggest loneliness is related to negative mental health symptoms among young adults experiencing COVID-19 related worry. The current findings provide initial empirical evidence for the impact of COVID-19 worry on mental health among young adults experiencing loneliness. Future research may benefit from exploring how COVID-19 worry and loneliness interplay over time.