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Psychometric Evaluation of a Fear of COVID-19 Scale in China: Cross-sectional Study

JMIR Formative Research. Mar 2;6(3):e31992. 2022
Choi E.P.H., Duan W., Fong D.Y.T.*, Lok K.Y.W., Ho M., Wong J.Y.H., Lin C.C.


At the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, information about fear of COVID-19 was very limited in Chinese populations, and there was no standardized and validated scale to measure the fear associated with the pandemic.

This cross-sectional study aimed to adapt and validate a fear scale to determine the levels of fear of COVID-19 among the general population in mainland China and Hong Kong.

A web-based questionnaire platform was developed for data collection; the study instruments were an adapted version of the 8-item Breast Cancer Fear Scale ("Fear Scale") and the 4-item Patient Health Questionnaire. The internal construct validity, convergent validity, known group validity, and reliability of the adapted Fear Scale were assessed, and descriptive statistics were used to summarize the participants' fear levels.

A total of 2822 study participants aged 18 years or older were included in the analysis. The reliability of the adapted scale was satisfactory, with a Cronbach α coefficient of .93. The item-total correlations corrected for overlap were >0.4, confirming their internal construct validity. Regarding convergent validity, a small-to-moderate correlation between the Fear Scale and the 4-item Patient Health Questionnaire scores was found. Regarding known group validity, we found that the study participants who were recruited from Hong Kong had a higher level of fear than the study participants from mainland China. Older adults had a higher level of fear compared with younger adults. Furthermore, having hypertension, liver disease, heart disease, cancer, anxiety, and insomnia were associated with a higher fear level. The descriptive analysis found that more than 40% of the study participants reported that the thought of COVID-19 scared them. About one-third of the study participants reported that when they thought about COVID-19, they felt nervous, uneasy, and depressed.

The psychometric properties of the adapted Fear Scale are acceptable to measure the fear of COVID-19 among Chinese people. Our study stresses the need for more psychosocial support and care to help this population cope with their fears during the pandemic.

Key Words: COVID-19; Chinese; cross-sectional; fear; information; mental health; psychometric; reliability; scale; support; validation; validity.

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(*Corresponding Author)