Specific Pandemic-Related Worries Predict Higher Attention-Related Errors and Negative Affect Independent of Trait Anxiety in UK-Based Students

Chris R H Brown, Ya-Chun Feng, Vlad Costin, Colette R Hirsch, Yun-Han Wang, Yun-Lin Wang, Jowinn Chew, Jordan Kenny, Paul Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many individuals experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety. We predict that this increase may be underpinned by pandemic-related worry (PRW), characterised by repetitive negative thinking about pandemic-specific outcomes; and that this relationship is mediated through reduced attentional capacity required to regulate negative affect. We developed a novel scale to measure the contents of PRW in an initial sample of 255 participants, and explored its relationship with cognitive functioning and negative affect in a sample of 382 UK-based university students, whilst controlling for recalled pre-pandemic trait anxiety. A five-factor model of PRW was identified, with factors reflecting worry about decline in quality of life (QoL) and probability of infection correlating with attention and memory-related errors. Importantly, attention-related errors partially mediated the positive relationship between PRW and negative affect, even when controlling for pre-pandemic trait anxiety. PRW's relationship with negative affect was partially mediated through attentional function, consistent with models of anxiety and attentional control. In UK-based students PRW may be predominantly focused on the decline in QoL; therefore, interventions targeting worry about the decline in QoL caused by COVID-19 are especially important in this population in the wake of the pandemic. The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10608-022-10336-7. [Abstract copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalCognitive therapy and research
Early online date20 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2022


  • Attentional control
  • COVID-19
  • Quality of life
  • Anxiety
  • Pandemic-related worry
  • Worry

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