The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving stressor with significant mental health consequences. We aimed to delineate distinct anxiety-response trajectories during the early stages of the pandemic and to identify baseline risk and resilience factors as predictors of anxiety responses.
Using a crowdsourcing website, we enrolled 1,362 participants, primarily from the United States (n = 1064) and Israel (n = 222) over three time-points from April-September 2020. We used latent growth mixture modeling to identify anxiety trajectories over time. Group comparison and multivariate regression models were used to examine demographic and risk and resilience factors associated with class membership.
A four-class model provided the best fit. The resilient trajectory (stable low anxiety) was the most common (n = 961, 75.08%), followed by chronic anxiety (n = 149, 11.64%), recovery (n = 96, 7.50%) and delayed anxiety (n = 74, 5.78%). While COVID-19 stressors did not differ between trajectories, resilient participants were more likely to be older, living with another person and to report higher income, more education, fewer COVID-19 worries, better sleep quality, and more dispositional resilience factors at baseline. Multivariate analyses suggested that baseline emotion regulation capabilities and low conflictual relationships uniquely distinguished participants in distinct trajectories.
Consistent with prior resilience research following major adversities, a majority of individuals showed stable low levels of low anxiety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowledge about dispositional resilience factors may prospectively inform mental health trajectories early in the course of ongoing adversity.