Anxiety in the face of the first wave of the spread of COVID-19 in Israel: Psychosocial determinants of a “Panic-to-complacency-continuum”

Golan Shahar, Limor Ahronson-Daniel, David Greenberg, Hadar Shalev, Avichai Tendler, Itamar Grotto, Patrick Malone, Nadav Davidovitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Methods: Based on an established ongoing prospective-longitudinal study examining anxiety in response to COVID-19, a representative sample of 1018 Jewish-Israeli adults were recruited online. A baseline assessment was employed two days prior to the first spread of COVID-19, followed by six weekly assessments. Three classes of general anxiety and virus-specific anxiety were identified: (1) “Panic” (a very high and stable anxiety throughout the spread), (2) “Complacency” (a very low and stable anxiety throughout the spread), and (3) “Threat-Sensitivity” (a linear increase, plateauing at the 5th wave). For general-anxiety only, a fourth, “Balanced,” class was identified, exhibiting a stable, middle-level of anxiety. We tested theory-based, baseline, social-cognitive predictors of these classes: self-criticism, perceived social support, and perceptions/attitudes towards the Israeli Ministry of Health. We also controlled for trait anxiety. Multinomial regression analyses in the context of General Mixture Modeling were utilized. Results: Baseline virus-specific anxiety linearly predicted emerging virus-specific anxiety classes. Virus-specific panic has higher trait anxiety than the other two classes. The general anxiety panic class was over-represented by women and exhibited higher baseline general anxiety and self-criticism than all other classes, and higher baseline virus-specific anxiety along with lower perceived support and less positive perceptions of the ministry of health than two of the three other classes. Conclusions: Preexisting anxiety shapes subsequent anxious responses to the spread of COVID-19. The general-anxiety panic class may be markedly demoralized, requiring targeted public-health interventions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number115585
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • Israel
  • Social-cognition

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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