The COVID Connection: Pandemic Anxiety, COVID-19 Comprehension, and Digital Confidence
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This article presents logistic models examining how pandemic anxiety and COVID-19 comprehension vary with digital confidence among adults in the United States during the first wave of the pandemic. As we demonstrate statistically with a nationally representative data set, the digitally confident have lower probability of experiencing physical manifestations of pandemic anxiety and higher probability of adequately comprehending critical information on COVID-19. The effects of digital confidence on both pandemic anxiety and COVID-19 comprehension persist, even after a broad range of potentially confounding factors are taken into account, including sociodemographic factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, metropolitan status, and partner status. They also remain discernable after the introduction of general anxiety, as well as income and education. These results offer evidence that the digitally disadvantaged experience greater vulnerability to the secondary effects of the pandemic in the form of increased somatized stress and decreased COVID-19 comprehension. Going forward, future research and policy must make an effort to address digital confidence and digital inequality writ large as crucial factors mediating individuals’ responses to the pandemic and future crises.