Several risk factors for anxious-depressive symptomatology during the COVID-19 pandemic have been established. However, few studies have examined the relationship between personality traits, hardiness, and such symptomatology during the pandemic. These constructs might serve as risk- and/or protective factors for such mental distress through the pandemic.
A sample of 5783 Norwegians responded to a survey at two time points within the first year of the pandemic. The first data collection was in April 2020 (T1) and the second in December 2020 (T2). Measures included the Ten-Item Personality-Inventory, the Revised Norwegian Dispositional Resilience Scale, and the Patient Health Questionnaire Anxiety and Depression Scale. Analyses were performed using Pearson’s correlations, multiple linear regression, and a moderation analysis.
Anxious-depressive symptomatology in early phases (T1) of the pandemic was the strongest predictor for the presence of such symptomatology 9 months after the outbreak (T2). Personality and hardiness correlated significantly with mental distress at T1 and T2. Personality traits explained 5% variance in symptoms when controlling for age, gender, solitary living, negative economic impact, and mental distress at baseline. Higher neuroticism predicted higher mental distress, whereas higher conscientiousness and extraversion predicted less mental distress. Hardiness did not explain variance in outcome beyond personality traits. Hardiness did not significantly moderate the relationship between neuroticism and mental distress.
Individuals with high levels of neuroticism had greater difficulties adapting to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and were more prone to mental distress. Contrastingly, higher conscientiousness and extraversion may have served as protective factors for mental distress during the pandemic. The current findings might aid identification of vulnerable individuals and groups. Consequently, preventive interventions could be offered to those who need it the most.