Sensory sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty and sex differences predicting anxiety in emerging adults
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AbstractAs multiple vulnerability factors have been defined for anxiety disorders, it is important to investigate the interactions among these factors to understand why and how some individuals develop anxiety. Sensory Sensitivity (SS) and Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU) are independent vulnerability factors of anxiety, but their unique relationship in predicting anxiety has rarely been studied in non-clinical populations. The objective of this investigation was to examine the combined effects of SS and IU on self-reported anxiety in a sample of university students. In addition, with the frequently reported sex bias in anxiety literature, we expected that the combined effects of vulnerability factors would be different for females and males. A convenience sample of 313 university students, ages 17–26 years was recruited. The participants completed the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS-12), the Adult/Adolescent Sensory Profile (AASP), and the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). Results of moderated mediation analyses demonstrated a strong partial mediation between SS and anxiety through IU, providing evidence that IU, a cognitive bias against the unknown, was one mechanism that explained how SS was related to anxiety. Further, the effect of IU on anxiety was approximately twice as strong in females. Our results highlight the importance of studying the unique relationships among multiple vulnerability factors to better understand anxiety susceptibility in emerging adults.
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