The present study presented the development of a new scale, the Fear of COVID-19 Scale (FC-19S). Findings demonstrated that the FCV-19S has a stable unidimensional structure with robust psychometric properties. Initial psychometric results indicated that the FCV-19S had good properties from different types of testing (i.e., CTT and Rasch analysis). Moreover, the overall score of the summed-up items scores can indicate the severity of the fear of COVID-19. More specifically, the higher the score on the FCV-19S, the higher the scores on the HADS and the PVDS were. Therefore, higher overall scores on the FCV-19S indicate more severe fear of COVID-19. Also, gender and age appeared not to affect the response pattern of the fear on the FCV-19S. Therefore, it can be concluded that the FCV-19S can be relied upon to assess and deal with the psychological issues emanating from COVID-19 among males and females as well as individuals of all ages.
Other studies have shown that negative effects of psychological reactions such as hypochondriasis and anxiety affect individuals’ health and well being during times of infectious epidemic crisis (Duncan et al. 2009; Pappas et al. 2009; Ropeik 2004). The FCV-19S could also help allay the fears of the public on COVID-19 and subsequently help in reducing the stigma, anxiety, and stress attached to it (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020a, b). The concurrent validity, ascertained using the HADS and PVDS, indicates that the FCV-19S is a valid tool for assessing fear of COVID-19. Also, the FCV-19S significantly correlated with depression, anxiety (on the HADS), perceived infectability, and germ aversion (on the PVDS) which suggests that individuals with severe fear of COVID-19 may have these comorbid disorders.
The present study has some limitations. First, the studied participants were from the general Iranian population and no formal diagnoses on mood disorders were obtained (e.g., anxiety). Therefore, the sensitivity and specificity of the scale cannot be examined. Second, although fear is subjective and has shortcomings when trying to assess it objectively, the nature of the self-report cannot exclude the possibility that respondents provided responses affected by social desirability factors. Third, convenience sampling weakens the generalizability of the findings in the present study. Finally, the single-factor structure of the scale was based on EFA and Rasch analysis; consequently, further verification, such as using confirmatory factor analysis, on its factor structure is needed.
In conclusion, this study demonstrated that the Fear of COVID-19 Scale is a seven-item unidimensional scale with robust psychometric properties. Moreover, total scores on the FCV-19S are comparable across both genders and all ages which suggest that it is a good psychometric instrument to be used in assessing and allaying fears of COVID-19 among individuals.