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Background: The current study explores how characteristics of individuals, their communities, and their relative exposure to nearby Covid-19 cases are associated with specific fears or perceived threat/risk of the virus itself during the early stages of the pandemic in March 2020.
Aims: Drawing from research emphasizing the intersectional relationships between individual social vulnerabilities, community characteristics, and Covid-19 outbreak locales, we test several hypotheses predicting fear.
Method: Using data from a large-scale survey of 10,368 U.S. adults from March 2020, we construct a series of hierarchical linear and logistic regression models that nest individuals within their residential counties in order to account for key socio-demographic characteristics of individuals, communities, and each respondent’s geographic proximity to Covid-19 cases.
Results: Results show that individual fear and perceived risk to oneself and family is predicted by individual social vulnerabilities, the type of community in which respondents live, and the relative presence of the virus in nearby places.
Conclusion: Our findings highlight the importance of understanding fear, particularly as a possible mediator for both mental and physical health outcomes. Likewise, we emphasize ongoing efforts aimed at understanding how different groups and communities respond to fear and/or concern over Covid-19 as the pandemic remains ongoing.
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