Stress During the Early Months of COVID in the U.S.

The Role of Fear and Health Status Across the Age Spectrum


  • Jill M. Chonody Boise State University
  • Barbra Teater
  • Katrina Hannan
  • Katelyn Hall



COVID-19, stress, fear, health, age


The stress that the COVID pandemic has caused is immeasurable and is likely to impact people for many years to come. Service providers such as social workers are experiencing these impacts both personally and professionally. As new research emerges, a greater understanding of the emotional toll related to COVID can help to inform social work practice. To add to this gap in the literature, an online survey explored the factors that contribute to higher stress reactions among individuals in the general population (n = 412) and across the age spectrum. Bivariate analyses indicated a significant increase in stress from pre- to during-COVID for the entire sample and across the three age groups. Multivariate analysis revealed more conversations about COVID, more alcohol use, knowing someone who had tested positive, increased fear, greater avoidance of reading/watching information about COVID, decreased health status, and increased income contributed to stress during-COVID. Increased fear and decreased health status were significant when stress was examined separately among the three age groups. The results indicated the importance of understanding and responding to fear during public health crises and illustrate how interventions may shift for clinical social workers as they seek to address multi-layered concerns. Social workers can help manage the impact of the pandemic by providing clients with therapeutic services, psychoeducation, and case management.

Author Biography

Jill M. Chonody, Boise State University

Associate Professor Social Work


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