Personality and perceived stress during COVID-19 pandemic

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Personality and perceived stress during COVID-19 pandemic: Testing the mediating role of perceived threat and efficacy

Team members

  • Dr. Ryan Rhodes
  • Dr. Sam Liu
  • Dr. Alex Lithopoulos

About this project

The goal of this project was to find out if participants’ perceptions of the threat of COVID-19 and belief in the efficacy of public health guidelines would affect the way that they experience stress, based on their personality traits.

What led to this project?

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a rise in stress rates around the world, which has affected people’s quality of life. In light of this, the research team saw the need to understand how people can better manage their stress in emergency situations, like the pandemic.

What did the researchers do?

The research team had 1230 adults living in Canada respond to an online survey. They divided participants into three personality trait profiles. The three personality traits were:

  • Neuroticism: This personality trait is a tendency to be emotionally unstable and experience feelings like anxiety, worry and fear.
  • Conscientiousness: Conscientiousness is a tendency to be responsible, organized, hard-working and goal-oriented.
  • Extroversion: Extroversion is a tendency to be sociable, assertive, positive and to have a high activity level.

Project findings

Neuroticism

People with neuroticism as a personality trait developed higher levels of stress during the pandemic because they perceived there to be a high threat of contracting COVID-19.

Extroversion

Participants with high levels of extroversion also experienced high levels of stress during the pandemic, because of social isolation.

Conscientiousness

People with high levels of conscientiousness did not experience a significant increase in their level of stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely because of their belief in the efficacy of public health measures to keep them safe.

Overall, the team found that the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant changes in health and lifestyle behaviours among Canadians.

What can we learn from this study?

The research team found that personality traits are an important consideration in identifying people at-risk for higher stress levels during a public emergency.

Published paper

"Personality and perceived stress during COVID-19 pandemic: Testing the mediating role of perceived threat and efficacy," published in Personality and Individual Differences vol. 168.