Moderating Effect of Coping Strategies on the Association Between the Infodemic-Driven Overuse of Health Care Services and Cyberchondria and Anxiety: Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling Study

Richard Huan Xu (Corresponding Author), Caiyu Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a substantial increase in health information, which has, in turn, caused a significant rise in cyberchondria and anxiety among individuals who search for web-based medical information. To cope with this information overload and safeguard their mental well-being, individuals may adopt various strategies. However, the effectiveness of these strategies in mitigating the negative effects of information overload and promoting overall well-being remains uncertain. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the moderating effect of coping strategies on the relationship between the infodemic-driven misuse of health care and depression and cyberchondria. The findings could add a new dimension to our understanding of the psychological impacts of the infodemic, especially in the context of a global health crisis, and the moderating effect of different coping strategies on the relationship between the overuse of health care and cyberchondria and anxiety. Methods: The data used in this study were obtained from a cross-sectional web-based survey. A professional survey company was contracted to collect the data using its web-based panel. The survey was completed by Chinese individuals aged 18 years or older without cognitive problems. Model parameters of the relationships between infodemic-driven overuse of health care, cyberchondria, and anxiety were analyzed using bootstrapped partial least squares structural equation modeling. Additionally, the moderating effects of coping strategies on the aforementioned relationships were also examined. Results: A total of 986 respondents completed the web-based survey. The mean scores of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 and Cyberchondria Severity Scale-12 were 8.4 (SD 3.8) and 39.7 (SD 7.5), respectively. The mean score of problem-focused coping was higher than those of emotion- and avoidant-focused coping. There was a significantly positive relationship between a high level of infodemic and increased overuse of health care (bootstrapped mean 0.21, SD 0.03; 95% CI 0.1581-0.271). The overuse of health care resulted in more severe cyberchondria (bootstrapped mean 0.107, SD 0.032) and higher anxiety levels (bootstrapped mean 0.282, SD 0.032) in all the models. Emotion (bootstrapped mean 0.02, SD 0.008 and 0.037, SD 0.015)- and avoidant (bootstrapped mean 0.026, SD 0.009 and 0.049, SD 0.016)-focused coping strategies significantly moderated the relationship between the overuse of health care and cyberchondria and that between the overuse of health care and anxiety, respectively. Regarding the problem-based model, the moderating effect was significant for the relationship between the overuse of health care and anxiety (bootstrapped mean 0.007, SD 0.011; 95% CI 0.005-0.027). Conclusions: This study provides empirical evidence about the impact of coping strategies on the relationship between infodemic-related overuse of health care services and cyberchondria and anxiety. Future research can build on the findings of this study to further explore these relationships and develop and test interventions aimed at mitigating the negative impact of the infodemic on mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53417
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • coping
  • cyberchondria
  • health care
  • infodemic
  • structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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