COVID-19 information overload: Intolerance of uncertainty moderates the relationship between frequency of internet searching and fear of COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of uncertainty for people around the world. Research suggests that internet searching resulting in contradictory information can lead to increased levels of distress, particularly for people who have a high intolerance of uncertainty (IU). In the present correlational study, U.S. undergraduate students (N = 317) indicated their IU, the frequency with which they search for COVID-19 related information online, their overall health anxiety, their fear of COVID-19 (FCV-19), and engagement in prevention behaviors. Consistent with previous research, individual differences in IU moderated the relationship between internet searches and FCV-19 such that for people high in IU, more internet searching was associated with greater fear. In turn, we also found that greater FCV-19 predicted more social-distancing behaviors. These findings are important in both future mental health and public health initiatives.