Research Snapshot: New screening tool: The Fear of COVID-19 Scale

What you need to know 

An international team of researchers developed a scale to measure people’s level of fear about the novel coronavirus 2019. They conducted a study to find out if the scale accurately and reliably identified study participants’ fear. They found that the seven items on the Fear of COVID-19 Scale were reliable and accurate in identifying participants with fear of COVID-19.


This Research Snapshot looks at the article, "The Fear of COVID-19 Scale: Development and Initial Validation," which was published in International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction in 2020. Read it below or download the PDF

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about? 

The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has become a significant global challenge. With its extremely high infection rate and relatively high mortality rate, it has caused widespread fear around the world. Previously, researchers showed that fear of COVID-19 leads to considerable psychological and social harms, including stigmatization, discrimination, and feelings of loss.

Efforts to deal with COVID-19 mostly focus on preventing and controlling infection, developing a vaccine, and improving the effectiveness of treatment. Attempts to treat the psychological and social complications of COVID-19 have been limited. For example, there is no tool to accurately measure a person’s level of fear of COVID-19. Such a tool could be useful in the development of programs to reduce this fear and associated complications. 

An international team of researchers developed such a tool and conducted a study to test its accuracy and reliability.

What did the researchers do? 

For their study, researchers enrolled a sample of 717 residents of Iran. To develop the items in the Fear of COVID-19 Scale, they conducted extensive reviews of existing fear scales, expert evaluations, and participant interviews. 

They also conducted several tests to find out if the scale would be reliable and accurate enough to identify fear of COVID-19 in adults.

To determine if a study participant had depression and/or anxiety symptoms, the researchers used the Persian version of Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. They also used the Persian version of the 15-item Perceived Vulnerability to Disease Scale to determine each participant’s level of perceived vulnerability to infectious disease and aversion to germs.

What did the researchers find? 

The average age of participants was 31 years and 58% were males. On average, they had nine years of education.

The researchers found that seven items on the Fear of COVID-19 Scale were reliable and accurate in identifying participants with fear of COVID-19.

The seven items are as follows:

  1. I am most afraid of coronavirus-19.
  2. It makes me uncomfortable to think about coronavirus-19.
  3. My hands become clammy when I think about coronavirus-19.
  4. I am afraid of losing my life because of coronavirus-19.
  5. When watching news and stories about coronavirus-19 on social media, I become nervous or anxious.
  6. I cannot sleep because I’m worrying about getting coronavirus-19.
  7. My heart races or palpitates when I think about getting coronavirus-19.

How can you use this research?

This research would be useful to public health professionals seeking to understand a population’s fear of COVID-19 and may help in the development of initiatives to relieve these fears.

Limitations of the research 

The researchers noted several limitations. Due to a lack of information about specific diagnoses of mood disorders, such as anxiety, they were unable to say with certainty if the scale could correctly identify participants with or those without these disorders. 

They also noted that they measured fear using participants’ own self-reports, so some responses may have been influenced by what the participant felt was an expected, or favourable, response. In addition, the researchers used convenience sampling to recruit participants (meaning they were selected simply because they were available and easy to access), so the results may not be the same for other groups or situations. 

Finally, the statistical method they used to develop the scale will require further analysis to confirm its ability to correctly identify fear of COVID-19. 

About the researchers

Daniel Kwasi Ahorsu,1 Chung-Ying Lin,1 Vida Imani,2 Mohsen Saffari,3 Mark D. Griffiths,4 and Amir H. Pakpour.5

  1. Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong.
  2. Pediatric Health Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran.
  3. Health Research Center, Life Style Institute, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
  4. International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Department, Nottingham Trent University, 50 Shakespeare Street, Nottingham, United Kingdom.
  5. Social Determinants of Health Research Center, Research Institute for Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences, Shahid Bahonar Blvd., Qazvin, Iran.


COVID-19, coronavirus, infection, fear, mortality, stigma, discrimination, measurement, scale 

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “The Fear of COVID-19 Scale: Development and Initial Validation” which was published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction in 2020. DOI: This summary was written by Rossana Coriandoli.

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