Social Sciences & Medicine; DeWayne P. Williams, Nickolas M. Jones, E. Alison Holman; published June 2, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115105


Rationale: Coronavirus (COVID-19) disproportionately affects people of color (e.g., Black and Latinx individuals) in the U.S., increasing their morbidity and mortality relative to White people. Despite this greater threat to their well-being, the mental health impact of COVID-19 on people of color remains poorly understood. Perseverative cognition (PC; i.e., excessive worry and/or rumination), is a common psychological response to such threats that independently associates with poor mental and physical health.

Objective: To examine patterns of PC across race/ethnicity when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Methods: This study surveyed 6,514 respondents from the NORC AmeriSpeak panel, a probability-based representative national sample of U.S. adults between 3/18/21-4/18/21. We employed traditional statistical analyses and natural language processing of open-ended data to examine pandemic-related worries.

Results: Weighted regression analyses with relevant covariates revealed group differences across specific domains of COVID-related worry. Relative to White respondents, Hispanic/Latino respondents reported more worries about social disarray, meeting basic needs, experiencing economic impacts, obtaining healthcare, and contracting COVID-19. Black respondents reported more worry about economic impacts relative to Whites. Additional group differences in worry emerged in open-ended data: Black respondents perseverated about death from COVID-19, whereas Hispanic/Latino respondents reported concerns about COVID-19 spread, and people refusing to uphold mitigation mandates. In contrast, White respondents expressed worry over compromised immune systems and economic collapse.

Conclusions: Results identify significant group differences in COVID-19 related PC, suggesting that people of color faced greater threat to mental well-being at the onset of the pandemic, and may be at greater risk for downstream PC-related physical health consequences.