Personality and perceived stress during COVID-19 pandemic: Testing the mediating role of perceived threat and efficacy

Sam Liu*, Alexander Lithopoulos, Chunqing ZHANG, Mauricio A. Garcia-Barrera, Ryan E. Rhodes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

193 Citations (Scopus)


Prolonged stress is associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes. Understanding the mediators between personality and stress is critical for developing effective stress management interventions during a pandemic. Our study explored whether perceptions of threat from COVID-19 and efficacy to follow government recommendations for preventing COVID-19 would mediate the relationships between personality traits (e.g., neuroticism, conscientiousness-goal-striving, extroversion-activity and sociability) and perceived stress. In an online survey of a representative sample of Canadian adults (n = 1055), we found that higher neuroticism and extroversion were associated with higher levels of stress during the pandemic and a greater increase in stress levels compared to levels before the pandemic. Perceived threat and efficacy significantly mediated the relationship between neuroticism and stress, which suggested that individuals with higher neuroticism experienced higher levels of stress due to higher levels of perceived threat and lower levels of efficacy. Perceived threat did not mediate the relationship between extroverts and stress, which suggested that the source of stress may stem from elsewhere (e.g., inability to socialize). Our findings highlighted that personality traits could be an important factor in identifying stress-prone individuals during a pandemic and that stress management interventions need to be personality specific.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110351
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date21 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Perceived efficacy
  • Perceived threat
  • Personality
  • Stress


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