Background. Effective prevention of psychological trauma by fear of COVID-19 requires the study of the relationships between the psychological and contextual factors that can influence the level of this fear. The social axioms, individual values, and government strategies for managing the pandemic have not yet been studied as a system of psychological and contextual factors contributing to COVID-19 fear.
Objective. The aim of this study was to assess the level of COVID-19 fear and the characteristics of the relationships between the social axioms, individual values, and fear of COVID-19 among university students from countries with different government strategies for managing the pandemic.
Design. University students from countries with different government strategies for managing the pandemic (208 Belarusians, 200 Kazakhstanis, and 250 Russians ages 18 to 25) participated in an anonymous online survey. The respondents filled in questionnaires that assessed their manifestations of COVID-19 fear (COVID-19 Fear Scale: FCV-19S) as the dependent variable; the “Social Axiom Questionnaire” (QSA-31) and the “Portrait Value Questionnaire” (ESS-21) measured the social axioms and individual values as the independent variables.
Results. Fear of COVID-19 reached a higher level among the students from the countries with the weakest (Belarus) and the strongest (Kazakhstan) restrictive measures during the pandemic. Dysfunctional fear of COVID-19 was manifest among those Belarusian students who attached the greatest importance to self-enhancement values and the fate control axiom, and the least importance to the social complexity axiom, as well as among those Russian students for whom the religiosity social axiom was significant and the social complexity axiom was not. For Kazakhstani students, social axioms and values were not predictors of dysfunctional fear of COVID-19.
Conclusion. The greatest contribution of social axioms and individual values to the experience of COVID-19 fear among the students was observed under conditions where the actions of the authorities were incompatible with the existing pandemic risks (in Belarus), as well as under conditions where a variable assessment of threat level was possible (in Russia).
Keywords: Social axioms / individual values/ fear of COVID-19/ government strategies of managing the pandemic/ students