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Dealing With the COVID-19 Infodemic: Distress by Information, Information Avoidance, and Compliance With Preventive Measures

Universität Mannheim

In the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, media reports have caused anxiety and distress in many. In some individuals, feeling distressed by information may lead to avoidance of information, which has been shown to undermine compliance with preventive health behaviors in many health domains (e.g., cancer screenings).

  • Disziplin: Sozial, Psychologie
  • Forschungsmethode: Quantitativ
  • Forschungsdesign: Primärerhebung, Offene Befragung (selbstselektiert)
  • Erhebungsstatus: Erhebung abgeschlossen, Ergebnisse veröffentlicht, Daten zugänglich

Ziele der Studie

The scientists examined whether feeling distressed by information predicts higher avoidance of information about COVID-19 (avoidance hypothesis), and whether this, in turn, predicts worse compliance with measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (compliance hypothesis). Thus, theconducted an online survey with a convenience sample (N = 1,059, 79.4% female) and assessed distress by information, information avoidance, and compliance with preventive measures. Furthermore, they inquired about participants’ information seeking behavior and media usage, their trust in information sources, and level of eHealth literacy, as well as generalized anxiety.


Data were collected from March 27 until April 29. Notably, in Germany, the strict regulations to slow down the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., contact restrictions) started on March 22 and were first relaxed on April 20. The study was presented in SoSci Survey and hosted on the university’s secure server. The online link to the study was distributed on social media and advertised on the university website. Participants accessed the study by clicking on the link. Initially, 1,432 participants started the online study. However, 26.05% dropped out before completing all questions, which is comparable to dropout rates reported in other online studiesThe majority of dropouts occurred directly after accessing the survey. All incomplete datasets were excluded. This resulted in a final sample of N = 1,059 participants (age; = 39.53, SD = 12.85, 79.4% female, 44.4% university degree) and included participants from all 16 German states. Furthermore, a substantial number of participants had a preexisting mental health condition (28.4%) or a physical health condition that put them at higher risk of a severe progression of COVID-19 (30.6%). Finally, 3.6% of the sample had been tested for COVID-19 and 1% tested positive.


The data supporting the conclusions of this article have been deposited on MADATA (University of Mannheim) Research Data Repository (doi: 10.7801/345) and will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any qualified researcher.