Coronavirus: Does worrying increase your risk of getting sick?

Cheri Preston of the “Perspective” podcast asks how much worry is too much?

March 9, 2020, 8:21 AM

5 min read

Cheri Preston reports for ABC News Radio’s “Perspective” podcast: How worrying too much may make things worse.

As the number of people infected by coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – continues to grow, so does the number of individuals concerned about the virus. But how much worry is too much?

Listen to the full interview with Cheri Preston and the rest of this past week's highlights here:

David Ropeik, author of “How Risky Is It Really?” and speaker on risk perception and communication, spoke to ABC’s Cheri Preston, about the consequences of worrying too much.

“When a risk is new, it has uncertainty. We don't know yet what we need to know to protect ourselves, and that uncertainty makes us feel powerless, like we don't have control over it,” Ropeik said. From canceled flights and events, sold out cleaning supplies, to drastically fluctuating stock markets, it’s safe to say people are nervous. “So what we do is anything that gives us a sense of control, like we buy all the bottled water and toilet paper at Costco … but in part it's because we're freaking out rather than it's actually just good practice,” Ropeik continued.

Fear of the unknown worries people just as much as the virus. While trying to take control of the situation — whether that means self-quarantining, buying all the toilet paper at the supermarket or stocking up on canned goods — can give people a sense of control, it’s better to be cautious, aware and keep matters in perspective.

Rather than panic, it’s suggested to do research on ways to prevent the virus from spreading more and what to watch out for by visiting the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization’ (WHO) website.

ABC’s own Dr. Jen Ashton has also been answering hundreds of questions about COVID-19 for those who are looking for a better understanding of the virus, including what precautions to take.

“We're in this fear state, but the fear state turns down the immune system. When you spread fear to your friends, it's almost like spreading germs to them. You wouldn't want people to do that to you. We shouldn't do that to other people,” said Ropeik.

So, just like a smile or a yawn, fear can also be contagious and it's good to stay vigilant during these times.

ABC News

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