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Among personality traits, conscientiousness and neuroticism are observed to affect fear of COVID-19.
Conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience are an effect on psychological resilience.
The role of the psychiatric nurse is important in providing conscious and need-oriented support in extraordinary events as pandemics
The purpose of the current research was to identify the influence of university students' personality traits on their fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience levels.
Design and methods
A cross-sectional trial was completed with 690 students. Descriptive statistics and correlations were calculated, and a path analysis was employed with the objective of assessing the model fit and investigating direct and indirect impacts.
Among personality traits, conscientiousness and neuroticism were observed to affect fear of COVID-19, and conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience had an effect on psychological resilience. The tested model has a good fit and explains the direct effects of the study variables.
Nurses should improve university students' psychological resilience by supporting them with protective and improving factors. The role of the psychiatric nurse is important in providing conscious and need-oriented support in extraordinary events such as pandemics.
). Human beings, who have been confronted with many social and individual limitations with the declaration of the disease a pandemic by the WHO because of the rapid spread of the virus worldwide, have experienced new circumstances, which they have not experienced in the recent past. In addition to the risk of virus transmission and death, the pandemic has also brought about an intense psychological pressure due to reasons such as deterioration of the routine functioning of life, feeling of uncertainty, fear of death, and fear of losing relatives. People's anxious and fearful state of mind originating from their fear of being infected with COVID-19 is defined by the concept of “fear of COVID-19” (
). The concept of psychological resilience is described as a set of characteristics and protective mechanisms that facilitate the individual's successful adaptation to the existing process in the face of difficult conditions (
). Psychological resilience has been suggested to protect against fear of COVID-19, which manifests itself as a mental outcome of the pandemic, and studies have shown that people with high psychological resilience experience less depression, stress, and anxiety related to COVID-19 (
Although the pandemic usually affects the whole society, the severity and intensity of reactions vary from person to person. Meanwhile, there are personal differences with respect to psychological resilience (
). The most important reason for individual differences is the individual's personality, which makes him/her unique among billions of people. Personality, which includes the traits that the individual brings from birth and acquires through his/her life experiences, can be defined as “the unique pattern of factors affecting feelings, thoughts, and ways of behavior that distinguish a person from others.” Due to these traits, the mental reactions in this traumatic process caused by the pandemic take place at different levels individually (
). Particularly university students who try to complete their adolescent development processes and adapt to developmental duties specific to adulthood, on one hand, and face academic and social requirements in the university environment, on the other hand, are a more fragile group in this process. Research in the literature has stated that the negativities caused by the pandemic affect the young population more, and university students are the group at risk (
) and social problems arising from the quarantine, university students were also adversely affected by the sudden and radical changes in their daily lives. With the closure of universities and the transition to distance education, many of them had to move to the houses of their families, working students lost their jobs, and even some of them had to discontinue their education. It is crucial to monitor the mental health of university students, who will carry the effects of the pandemic from today to the future and form social memory, during the pandemic period (
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to common fear and anxiety due to the nature of the pandemic. The fear induced by this traumatic life experience in people and the psychological resilience levels that represent their coping skills will differ within the scope of personality traits (
). Although there are studies in the literature examining the correlation between fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience, the predictive role of personality traits has not been investigated. It is thought that determining how these factors are associated with each other will contribute to the literature regarding the management of mental health outcomes. In this respect, the research was done to reveal the effects of university students' personality traits on their fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience levels.
Materials and methods
The current research has the following objectives: (a) to identify the impacts of personality traits of students studying in two state universities in the Marmara and Western Black Sea regions of Turkey on their fear of COVID-19 and emotional resilience levels, and (b) to examine the relationships between the relevant results through a path analysis. The hypothesized model is shown in Fig. 1.
Therefore, our initial hypotheses were as follows:
H1a: The extraverted personality trait of university students positively affects their fear of COVID-19.
H1b: The agreeable personality trait of university students positively affects their fear of COVID-19.
H1c: The conscientious personality trait of university students positively affects their fear of COVID-19.
H1d: The neurotic personality trait of university students positively affects their fear of COVID-19.
H1e: University students' openness to experience positively affects their fear of COVID-19.
H2a: The extraverted personality trait of university students positively affects their emotional resilience.
H2b: The agreeable personality trait of university students positively affects their emotional resilience.
H2c: The conscientious personality trait of university students positively affects their emotional resilience.
H2d: The neurotic personality trait of university students positively affects their emotional resilience.
H2e: University students' openness to experience positively affects their emotional resilience.
Design and sampling
The current research had a cross-sectional design. In the research, the sample size was computed at a 95 % confidence level by utilizing the “G. Power-184.108.40.206” software. According to the analysis, the standardized effect size was found to be 0.160 at the level of α = 0.05 based on previous research (
), and the minimum total number of samples was calculated as 501 with 0.95 theoretical power.
The study population consisted of all students studying at Sakarya University and Karabük University. For this cross-sectional study, 720 students were accessed and grouped with the stratified sampling method. Thirty participants were excluded because of missing data. Therefore, the study sample comprised 690 university students. The inclusion criteria were determined in the following way: (a) Volunteering to participate in the research, (b) Speaking and understanding Turkish well.
There are health units (MEDIKO-Social Center) within the scope of both universities where the study was conducted, and counseling and support was provided by psychologists to university students who requested during the pandemic process in these units.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, data collection was carried out via Google Forms. The survey was shared in the electronic environment by utilizing Google Drive's online service system (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdNKpYaOABW4woORu5RQZiQyIG6k8ETzuH4MBnjKMO08E8SAw/viewform?usp=sf_link) and then on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. It was published between October 5 and November 22, 2021, for 7 weeks. Individuals with access to the survey link responded to the questions. Filling out the scales took about 10–15 min. The data were downloaded in the CSV format, and their analysis was performed after their revision and standardization.
Data collection tools
The online survey was prepared by the researchers by making use of available studies (
) and comprised five parts. In the first part, the purpose, scope, and stages of the study were explained. In the second part of the survey, 10 questions were asked about the descriptive characteristics of the participants, including age, gender, department and class, catching COVID-19 infection, and vaccination status. In the third part, the Big Five Personality Traits Scale was used. The 10-item Big Five Personality Traits Scale developed by
. The scale comprises five sub-dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience, and there are a total of two items for each dimension, one of which is reverse. These two items are combined to form the sub-dimension score. It was revealed that Cronbach's alpha internal consistency values for the sub-dimensions of the scale ranged between 0.81 and 0.90, and the composite reliability coefficients ranged between 0.73 and 0.85. Scale assessment was performed according to the sub-dimensions. As the scores for each sub-dimension increase, the characteristics of that dimension increase in the individual (
. Cronbach's alpha internal consistency coefficient of the Fear of COVID-19 Scale is 0.86. High scores acquired from the scale demonstrate that individuals have high fear of coronavirus. In the last part, the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale was benefited from. The 10-item short version of the 25-item resilience scale developed by
. The scale's internal consistency coefficient is 0.81. The 10-item scale contains five-point Likert-type scoring. High scores acquired from the scale are considered to demonstrate high psychological resilience.
Descriptive statistics were utilized to address the study hypotheses. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS 24 software (IBM Corporation) and SmartPLS. Descriptive statistics (mean, median and standard deviation [SD]) were employed to show the distribution of the study variables in the overall sample (n = 690).
The path analysis was conducted to test our conceptual model that associates fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience with the personality traits of university students (e.g., extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience) (using SmartPLS software).
Within the framework of the measurement model, the composite reliability (CR) value was calculated for composite reliability, the average variance extracted (AVE) value was computed for convergent validity, and the Fornell-Larcker criterion and HTMT (Heterotrait-Monotrait Ratio) values were calculated for discriminant validity (
Data analysis for the research uses the following guideline: firstly, confirmatory factor analysis is conducted to measure the reliability and validity of the research instrument. A Smart PLS path model analysis is conducted for the purpose of testing the three hypotheses of the present study. The results of the mentioned test will clearly show whether significant relationships exist between the independent variables and the dependent variable. Whereas the R2 value is utilized as an indicator for the overall predictive strength of the model according to these values, the value of 0.67 is considered substantial, 0.33 moderate, and 0.19 weak (
). Whereas the f2 value is employed as a measure to establish the effect size of predicting variable in the model based on these values, the value of 0.35 is considered as large, 0.15 as medium, and 0.02 as weak (
). Finally, if the Q2 value for a dependent variable is above zero, it shows that the model has predictive relevance. The reported statistical significance was two-sided and set at the 5 % level. In our model, we assumed that students' personality traits had direct and indirect impacts on their fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience (see Fig. 1).
Ethical approval was received from the Health Ethics Committee of Sakarya University (Date: 17.09.2021 Issue: E-71522473-050.01.04-64314419). Institutional permission was acquired from the universities where the study was carried out. Furthermore, written permission was received from the Republic Ministry of Health, General Directorate of Health Services, Scientific Research Platform. The current research was done in line with the principles of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. The consent form was on the survey's first page. The participants were assured that they had the right to refuse to take part in the study and that all information to be given would be kept confidential. The students who participated in the research stated that they had read, understood, and agreed to take part on a voluntary basis by marking the “I agree” option, then completed the other parts of the questionnaire. Google Forms has privacy standards that involve protecting, not using, data; not sharing data without permission; and not selling personal information.
Of the participants, 42.9 % are between 20 and 21 years of age, and 64.2 % are female. When the distribution of the participants in accordance with their scientific fields is reviewed, it is observed that 34.5 % study Science, 33.9 % study Social Sciences, and 31.4 % study Health Sciences. Of the participants, 91.7 % did not have any chronic disease, 24.9 % had a history of COVID-19 infection (diagnosed with PCR), and 90.2 % had two doses of vaccine. Families of 47.4 % had had COVID-19, and 23.5 % had losses in their families due to COVID-19.
The validity and reliability findings of the data collection tools are shown in Table 1.
An evaluation of the measurement model is presented in Table 1. For all constructs, Cronbach's alpha (varying between 0.700 and 0.905) indicates good reliability over 0.60. Moreover, as shown in Table 1, all factor loadings are above 0.4, and the CR value for all constructs (ranging from 0.723 to 0.904) is >0.7 and higher than the relevant AVE, which indicates good construct reliability and convergent validity. AVEs are >0.5 for all constructs.
As observed in Table 2, the correlation coefficients of the variables are lower than the square root of AVE values, and the Fornell-Larcker criteria are met. Furthermore, when the values in the table are reviewed, it is observed that the HTMT values are lower than the threshold value (<0.90). According to the findings in Table 2, discriminant validity can be said to be provided.
Table 2Fornell-Larcker Criterion Analysis and Heterotrait-Monotrait (HTMT) Ratio.
The Varience Inflation Faktor (VIF) values related to personality traits sub-dimensions are presented in Table 3. All values are below the critical value (<3). This shows that there is no linearity between the relevant variables.
Table 3The VIF values related to personality traits sub-dimensions.
When the model analysis results are examined in Table 4 and Fig. 2, conscientiousness and neuroticism are seen to have a statistically significant impact on fear of COVID-19 (p < 0.05). When the R2 values of the model are examined, conscientiousness and neuroticism explain 8.6 % of the change in fear of COVID-19. Conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion are seen to have a statistically significant impact on psychological resilience (p < 0.05). When the R2 values of the model are examined, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience are revealed to explain 52 % of the change in psychological resilience.
In accordance with the observed results and the comparison of fit indices with the required criteria, the said model can be considered a fit model. As observed in Fig. 2, hypotheses (except H1a, H1b, H1e, H2a, and H2b) were accepted. Of the five personality traits, agreeableness has no significant and direct influence on fear of COVID-19 and emotional resilience.
The findings of the current study, which was conducted to reveal the impacts of personality traits on fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience levels in university students, show that conscientious and neurotic personality traits have a statistically significant effect on fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience.
It is crucial to concentrate on the mental health of university students during crises and pandemics (
). A study conducted with 1653 participants aged 18 years and over from 63 countries showed that young age groups were more vulnerable to mental health problems, e.g., anxiety, stress, and depression, during the COVID-19 pandemic and needed more support (
). Students may experience more stress during the pandemic due to interruptions in education, concerns about personal or family health, and social isolation. The above-mentioned changes can lead to increased behavioral changes, concentration problems, and the use of negative coping strategies (
). With the effect of some factors such as personality traits, differences are observed in the way each individual copes with negative situations and their attitudes and behaviors toward circumstances.
In this study, whose sample consisted of university students, the conscientious personality trait was revealed to have a reducing impact on fear of COVID-19. The conscientious personality trait refers to being planned, attentive, and showing a degree of resulting self-control. Conscientious individuals have the ability to control their impulses (
). Considering the findings of the studies, fear of COVID-19 may decrease as conscientiousness increases, and conscientiousness may increase with the effect of the threat and stress of COVID-19. The relationship between these factors may not be the same as in the early days when there was more uncertainty about the pandemic. People's reactions may change over time because of adaptation to big adverse life experiences. In a study from Slovakia, behavioral and emotional data were collected during the first and second waves of the pandemic, and it was observed that the influence of personality traits and fear of COVID-19 decreased statistically significantly (
The neurotic personality trait is associated with the individual's emotional balance. Due to the problems experienced in ensuring emotional balance, these individuals are prone to experiencing negative emotions, e.g., depression and anxiety. They feel anxious, restless, and upset and cope with stress poorly (
). In the current research, a positive association was determined between neuroticism and fear of COVID-19. According to this result, fear of COVID-19 rises as the level of neuroticism increases. In the literature, studies also support this result (
). Neuroticism is thought to increase fear of COVID-19 due to the tendency to experience negative emotions including anxiety, anger, and depression and weak coping power.
In a study, which involved 50 male participants aged 18–25 years, took 4.5 years, and was completed with 28 participants who were evaluated before, during, and after military service, one of the stressful life experiences, an increase was observed in neuroticism in participants during military service. After military service, however, there was a decrease in neuroticism (
revealed that psychological resilience levels were usually high (highest in men and those over 25 years of age), and students studying Health Sciences had a higher ability to adapt to change and overcome the difficulties brought by the pandemic (
). Assuming that there is a supportive positive correlation between conscientiousness and psychological resilience based on the aforesaid characteristics, the findings of this research, which indicate an increase in psychological resilience as conscientiousness increases, are considered to be consistent.
In a study performed on nursing students, the rate of neuroticism was found to increase in women and as age decreased (17–24 years) (
). A high level of neuroticism is correlated to a negative or excessively uncontrolled emotional approach, poor coping, and impulsive problems. Therefore, it is an expected result that it has a negative effect on psychological resilience. In the literature, there are studies indicating that neuroticism is associated with decreased psychological resilience (
). The findings of the current research support the findings of studies in the literature indicating that neuroticism is correlated to decreased psychological resilience.
Openness to experience, which is accepted as a positive personality trait, contains sensitive, flexible and creative features, while, extraversion is a personality trait that has features such as being lively, cheerful, sociable and social (
During the COVID-19 period, children and adolescents aged 18 years and under are also vulnerable groups at high risk of being adversely affected. A systematic review revealed that children and adolescents aged 18 years and under, who were affected by the pandemic, experienced fear, anxiety and disruptions in their daily routines but exhibited resilience with the right support (
). In this process, factors such as the way parents, healthcare providers, and the media reflect the event, previous experiences and support are considered to affect the fear experienced by children and the developing resilience (
In the current results, conscientiousness, one of the personality traits of university students, adversely affects fear of COVID-19, and neuroticism has a positive and direct influence on fear of COVID-19. Meanwhile, neuroticism was observed to adversely affect psychological resilience, and conscientiousness and openness to experience to have a positive direct impact on psychological resilience.
Implications for nursing practice
The COVID-19 outbreak leads to numerous physical and mental health conditions in different groups. It is an undeniable fact that, among these groups, university students are exposed to the stress induced by the pandemic. The present research emphasizes that nurses, who play a role in maintaining and improving physical mental health, should plan their approaches considering the personal differences regarding university students' psychological resilience. Nurses should support and improve university students' psychological resilience with protective and improving factors. Nurses in health centers of universities and health personnel in health research and application councils should implement activities to strengthen psychological resilience by adopting a student-centered approach according to students' personality traits. Our current students will form the adult memory of the future. Therefore, nurses play an important role in raising their awareness and supporting them in their needs during the pandemic period. In addition, interventions to increase psychological resilience should be added to emergency measures to be prepared for extraordinary crisis situations such as pandemics and natural disasters. It can be said that psychological support activities should be increased and psychological counseling centers should be made more active in order to reduce the negative effects on university students, especially in crisis situations. It is the responsibility of educational institutions to employ psychologists, nurses and social workers in order to provide adequate service with the arrangements to be made in this regard.
The data in this study were analyzed cross-sectionally. The correlational relationships among the variables do not imply cause and effect. There is also a need for studies investigating the long-term, causal effects of personality traits on fear of COVID-19 and psychological resilience levels. The findings are based on data acquired from self-report measures with the risk of bias. Despite the said limitations, the research findings provide useful data to health professionals who deal with the mental health problems of university students arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
CRediT authorship contribution statement
The conception and design of the study: NÇ, GH, AE, ÖKS; acquisition of data: AE, ÖKS, GH; analysis and interpretation of data: C; drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content: NÇ, GH, AE, ÖKS; final approval of the version to be submitted: NÇ, GH, AE, ÖKS.
Ethical approval was obtained from the Health Ethics Committee of Sakarya (17.09.2021 Issue: E-71522473-050.01.04-64314419).
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declared no conflict of interest.
The fear of COVID-19 scale: Development and initial validation.