Improved mental health: Another reason to get a COVID-19 vaccine

October 5, 2021 in Preventive Care  •  By Miles Varn, MD
COVID anxiety

As you would expect, the COVID-19 pandemic increased symptoms of anxiety and depression in people of all ages. Not only were people concerned about themselves or the people they care about getting seriously ill with the virus, they also faced increased social isolation during stay at home orders, loss of jobs, financial hardships, and the stress of adapting to remote work and school. Researchers found that 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic compared to 1 in 10 adults in the period of January to June 2019.

Even though the pandemic isn’t yet over, a recent study found one decision that’s helping to lower people’s feelings of anxiety and depression—getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The peer-reviewed study, which was published in PLOS One, included more than 8,000 adults across the U.S. They were surveyed frequently from March 2020 to March 2021. Survey questions focused on feelings of mental distress and vaccine status.

The researchers discovered that after receiving their first vaccine, survey respondents who were at greater risk of becoming seriously ill or dying if they contracted COVID-19 experienced a 4% reduction in their risk of experiencing mild depression and a 15% reduction in risk for being seriously depressed. People who had not yet been vaccinated reported increased levels of anxiety and depression.

There are a number of possible reasons that getting vaccinated may help improve mental wellness for some people:

  • Mental health professionals have noted that one significant driver of anxiety and depression during the pandemic is that people feel powerless or like they have no control over their lives. Getting the vaccine may restore some of that sense of control.
  • The rollout of vaccines can be seen as evidence that the world is making progress against the virus, showing that we have tools that could help bring about the end of the pandemic.
  • Being vaccinated may also improve mental health because people are more comfortable returning to in-person socializing and other events, which can help counter feelings of isolation.
  • Increasing numbers of people who have been vaccinated may help strengthen the economy, lowering financial stress for many families and individuals.
  • People who left the workforce because of concerns about contracting COVID-19 may feel more comfortable returning to work after they and a growing number of the people they’ll need to interact with are vaccinated, which can improve their financial situation.

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, your primary care physician or a health advisor can be a good source of evidence-based information to guide your decision-making. And if you or someone you care about is experiencing ongoing symptoms of anxiety and depression, talking with a mental health provider can help you manage your symptoms and build coping skills.