Two benefits, one vaccine: COVID-19 vaccination helps improve mental health

DURHAM, NH — COVID-19 vaccines are helping the world get back on track and back to normal. Now, a new study reveals that they also help people feel like themselves again. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have found that the COVID-19 vaccine can help significantly improve overall mental well-being.

The team reports that the vaccination measurably improved the mental health of those participating in the Study on understanding the coronavirus in America. This project is a large longitudinal survey of the impact of the pandemic on Americans.

Specifically, the study finds that receiving a COVID-19 vaccination was associated with fewer reports of distress, perceived risk of infection, hospitalization and death among participants. While this may be predictable to some, this work scientifically supports the idea that the vaccine alleviates everyday COVID-related anxieties.

Post-vaccination, researchers explain, taking a trip to the grocery store or local gym may not feel as daunting as it does in 2020. Over time, this added sense of control over one’s own life and choices day-to-day translates to mental health and life in general. quality improvements.

“Our study documents significant psychological benefits of vaccination beyond reducing the risk of severe illness and death associated with COVID-19,” says lead researcher Jonathan Koltai, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, in a press release.

Even one dose of vaccine makes a difference

The study authors analyzed data from 8,090 adults surveyed regularly between March 2020 and June 2021. This analysis showed a general trend after COVID-19 vaccination: a reduction in perceptions of COVID-related risks and psychological distress. Specifically, even adults who only received a single dose of the vaccine between December 2020 and June 2021 experienced a 7% relative decline in mental distress.

The study authors say much of this improvement had a direct link to participants feeling better protected against COVID-19 infection. Vaccination contributed to a 7.77% reduction in the perceived risk of infection, a 6.91% reduction in the perceived risk of hospitalization and a 4.68% reduction in the perceived risk of mortality. Additionally, when the researchers adjusted for risk perceptions, the vaccination-distress association dropped by 25%.

These positive mental health benefits continued to build for up to eight weeks after a patient was injected. The researchers explain that prior to any vaccination, nearly all participants reported feeling equally depressed or in poor mental health. After vaccination, however, those who received their shots both felt safer and had more physical protection against viruses.

Some people benefit more mentally from vaccination

It is also important to note that the mental health benefits of vaccination differed between certain races and demographic groups. American Indians and Alaska Natives reported reaping the greatest mental health benefits. The study authors note that both of these groups have suffered greatly during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Asians and Pacific Islanders had the highest vaccination rates, while African Americans had the lowest rates.

The pandemic is not over yet and the Omicron variant continues to spread in the United States and around the world. With this in mind, the study authors stress the need for more campaigns to encourage vaccinations and to redouble efforts to achieve vaccine equity. Additionally, the researchers believe that vaccination messages should take advantage of these findings.

“To ensure that these benefits are widely shared, efforts to increase vaccination and booster rates in early 2022 must prioritize equitable distribution and access to vaccines,” Dr. Koltai concludes.

The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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