BJPsych Open 8 (2) e73 [2022-03-21; online 2022-03-21]
The severity of COVID-19 remains high worldwide. Therefore, millions of individuals are likely to suffer from fear of COVID-19 and related mental health factors. The present systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to synthesize empirical evidence to understand fear of COVID-19 and its associations with mental health-related problems during this pandemic period. Relevant studies were searched for on five databases (Scopus, ProQuest, EMBASE, PubMed Central, and ISI Web of Knowledge), using relevant terms (COVID-19-related fear, anxiety, depression, mental health-related factors, mental well-being and sleep problems). All studies were included for analyses irrespective of their methodological quality, and the impact of quality on pooled effect size was examined by subgroup analysis. The meta-analysis pooled data from 91 studies comprising 88 320 participants (mean age 38.88 years; 60.66% females) from 36 countries. The pooled estimated mean of fear of COVID-19 was 13.11 (out of 35), using the Fear of COVID-19 Scale. The associations between fear of COVID-19 and mental health-related factors were mostly moderate (Fisher's z = 0.56 for mental health-related factors; 0.54 for anxiety; 0.42 for stress; 0.40 for depression; 0.29 for sleep problems and -0.24 for mental well-being). Methodological quality did not affect these associations. Fear of COVID-19 has associations with various mental health-related factors. Therefore, programmes for reducing fear of COVID-19 and improving mental health are needed.