Aims: The study aimed to investigate the effects of the fear of COVID-19, level of physical activity, and gender on negative stress (distress) in an Arab population by means of structural equations based on partial least squares.
Materials and Methods: The sample population comprised of 459 participants from four Arab countries (age M = 33.02, SD = 8.46; n = 237 women and n = 222 men). The level of education was basic (<9 years of study; n = 144), secondary/vocational (between 9 and 12; n = 178), and university (n = 137). The “Fear of COVID-19” Scale, the short form of the “International Physical Activity Questionnaire,” and the “Perceived Stress Scale” questionnaires were disseminated by emails and social networks via Google Forms. SMARTPLS software version 3.2.9 was used to model the relationships between the variables under study.
Results: Results confirmed the links between level of physical activity, fear of COVID-19, and gender, showing a significant mediating effect of the fear of COVID-19 on the relationship between gender and general distress. The level of physical activity was also found to influence the fear of COVID-19, varying depending on gender. In addition, the model highlighted the presence of a moderation effect of the level of physical activity.
Conclusion: Based on the model presented in the present study, we can conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has a profound impact on psychological distress in the target populations. The impact of the level of physical activity on psychological distress is shown to be very important during the pandemic phase.