The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered health-related anxiety in ways that undermine peoples’ mental and physical health. Contextual factors such as living in a high-risk area might further increase the risk of health deterioration. Based on the Social Identity Approach, we argue that social identities can not only be local that are characterized by social interactions, but also be global that are characterized by a symbolic sense of togetherness and that both of these can be a basis for health. In line with these ideas, we tested how identification with one’s family and with humankind relates to stress and physical symptoms while experiencing health-related anxiety and being exposed to contextual risk factors. We tested our assumptions in a representative sample (N = 974) two-wave survey study with a 4-week time lag. The results show that anxiety at Time 1 was positively related to stress and physical symptoms at Time 2. Feeling exposed to risk factors related to lower physical health, but was unrelated to stress. Family identification and identification with humankind were both negatively associated with subsequent stress and family identification was negatively associated with subsequent physical symptoms. These findings suggest that for social identities to be beneficial for mental health, they can be embodied as well as symbolic.


Copyright © 2021 The Authors. British Journal of Social Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Frenzel, S., Junker, N., Avanzi, L., Bolatov, A., Haslam, S., Häusser, J., Kark, R., Meyer, I., Mojzisch, A., Monzani, L., Reicher, S., Samekin, A., Schury, V., Steffens, N., Sultanova, L., Van Dijk, D., van Zyl, L. & Van Dick, R. 2021, 'A trouble shared is a trouble halved: the role of family identification and identification with humankind in well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic', British Journal of Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12470

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 15 November 2022
Was this page helpful?