The perceived vulnerability to disease scale: Cross‐cultural measurement invariance and associations with fear of COVID‐19 across 16 countries

Karakulak, Arzu; Stogianni, Maria; Alonso‐Arbiol, Itziar; Shukla, Shanu; Bender, Michael; Yeung, Victoria Wai Lan; Jovanović, Veljko; Musso, Pasquale; Scardigno, Rosa; Scott, Riley A.; Stuart, Jaimee; Friehs, Maria‐Therese; Toh, Zena; Albayrak-Aydemir, Nihan; Arvanitis, Alexios; Buzea, Carmen; Mastrotheodoros, Stefanos; Tsang, Jo‐Ann; Madeira, Filipa; Miconi, Diana; Pascual, Nicole Russell; Rowatt, Wade C.; Al‐Kire, Rosemary L.; Amar, Moty; Aral, Tugce; Itzchakov, Guy; Mishra, Sushanta Kumar; Porat, Roni; Servidio, Rocco; Stefenel, Delia; Tair, Ergyul and Gkomez, Alexandros (2023). The perceived vulnerability to disease scale: Cross‐cultural measurement invariance and associations with fear of COVID‐19 across 16 countries. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, article no. e12878.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12878

Abstract

Using cross‐sectional data from N = 4274 young adults across 16 countries during the COVID‐19 pandemic, we examined the cross‐cultural measurement invariance of the perceived vulnerability to disease (PVD) scale and tested the hypothesis that the association between PVD and fear of COVID‐19 is stronger under high disease threat [that is, absence of COVID‐19 vaccination, living in a country with lower Human Development Index (HDI) or higher COVID‐19 mortality]. Results supported a bi‐factor Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling model where items loaded on a global PVD factor, and on the sub‐factors of Perceived Infectability and Germ Aversion. However, cross‐national invariance could only be obtained on the configural level with a reduced version of the PVD scale (PVD‐r), suggesting that the concept of PVD may vary across nations. Moreover, higher PVD‐r was consistently associated with greater fear of COVID‐19 across all levels of disease threat, but this association was especially pronounced among individuals with a COVID‐19 vaccine, and in contexts where COVID‐19 mortality was high. The present research brought clarity into the dimensionality of the PVD measure, discussed its suitability and limitations for cross‐cultural research, and highlighted the pandemic‐related conditions under which higher PVD is most likely to go along with psychologically maladaptive outcomes, such as fear of COVID‐19.

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