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Mental Health

COVID-19 anti-vaxxers more likely to have depression

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Anti-vaxxers are more prone to depression, according to new research.

A study of over 15,000 people found those who believed COVID-19 jab-related misinformation were more likely to be depressed

Corresponding author Dr. Roy Perlis, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said: "These findings suggest another potential benefit of public health efforts to address depressive symptoms, namely reducing susceptibility to misinformation."

Participants with moderate or severe major depression were more than twice as likely to endorse at least one of four false statements about the vaccines.

What is more, they were half as likely to be vaccinated. The phenomenon could be caused by loss of trust.

An estimated one in five adults in the United Kingdown have been affected by depression during the pandemic - rising to a quarter in the US.

They could be at greater risk of COVID-19. Individuals with depression may also exhibit less optimistic beliefs, which could lead them to underestimate the potential benefit of vaccination.

Dr. Perlis said: "Notably, mood disorders have been associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes among hospitalized patients."

The researchers analyzed responses from two waves of an internet survey of over 18s across the US between May and July 2021.

Dr. Perlis said: "While this study design cannot address causation, the association between depression and spread and impact of misinformation merits further investigation."

The potential for misinformation to impact public health behavior was recognized prior to the pandemic.

via GIPHY

Consequences have since have become even more apparent, said Dr. Perlis.

It can hinder efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus by minimizing the perceived risk of infection, discouraging mask-wearing and distancing behaviors and reducing vaccination rates.

Dr. Perlis said: "In the context of political misinformation, both anger and anxiety are associated with promoting beliefs in certain types of false stories."

An estimated one in five adults in the UK has been affected by depression during the pandemic - rising to a quarter in the US.

The researchers assessed vaccine-related misinformation using four statements.

Dr. Perlis said: "We selected these statements based on misinformation prevalent on social media platforms in spring 2021."

They included "The COVID-19 vaccines will alter people’s DNA," "The
COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips that could track people," "The COVID-19 vaccines contain the lung tissue of aborted fetuses" and "The COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility, making it more difficult to get pregnant."

At the conclusion, respondents were informed which items were not true, to ensure that the survey itself did not facilitate the spread of misinformation.

Dr. Perlis said: "We found that presence of moderate or greater depressive symptoms was associated with greater likelihood of endorsing misinformation about vaccines.

"The association persisted with adjustment for sociodemographic features as well as self-reported ideology and political party affiliation."

Individuals with major depressive symptoms often exhibit a more pronounced "negativity bias" - where bad thoughts receive greater focus, he explained.

It follows depression could facilitate uptake of misinformation at an individual level.

Dr. Perlis said: "Alternatively, it is possible the association between depression and misinformation could be mediated by change in trust.

"Individuals with depression could exhibit less willingness to trust institutions attempting to combat misinformation, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or greater willingness to trust other institutions that distribute misinformation."

He added: "As anticipated, we also found individuals who embraced health misinformation were less likely to be vaccinated or be willing to get the vaccine if available.

"As such, individuals already burdened with depression may be at a higher risk of COVID-19."

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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