New research suggests that vaccinations have significant mental health benefits. (Photo: VioletaStoimenova via Getty Images)
The coronavirus vaccine has one clear and important health benefit. It prevents you from becoming seriously ill or even dying if you are in close contact with it.
This is an amazing feat in and of itself. New research that was published Wednesday shows that vaccinated people may have significant mental health improvements.
Researchers tracked the first coronavirus vaccine doses given to people between December 2020 and March 2021 in the study published in PLoS One.
The researchers found that people who had had a shot were less likely than those who hadn't. This includes those who wanted to be vaccinated but weren't able to.
Because mental health is just as important as physical, it is yet another reason that everyone should get vaccinated.
How the pandemic affected people's mental health
National surveys conducted over the last 18 months have shown alarming increases in mental health problems, many times in conjunction with cases surges.
For example, in summer 2020, 4 out 10 Americans indicated that they had substance abuse or mental health problems. This is an increase from the 1 in 10 adults who were affected by the pandemic.
Experts have warned that the pandemic is adding to the stress of millions of Americans already suffering from poverty before COVID. They call it a national emergency.
A February Kaiser Family Foundation report found that adults in poor health continue to experience higher levels of anxiety and/or depressive symptoms than those in good health.
Why vaccination could be beneficial
There are many reasons why mental health concerns have been increasing during the pandemic. These include widespread job loss and loneliness.
Continue the story
The new study can't say why people who take a risk with their mental health may experience a mental boost. However, its authors suggest that a combination of factors could be responsible.
People who have been vaccinated might be less concerned about being infected. Researchers write that they might be more socially active or explore new job opportunities. Studies in the past have shown that isolation was a significant factor in mental health in people during the pandemic. This is why medical groups are trying to get children back into classrooms this fall.
These new findings do not suggest that vaccination is a panacea or that increasing the number of people who are willing to take up arms will give millions of Americans the mental health support they require. According to the study's authors, their findings should be understood only as the immediate effects of a first vaccination.
They do note that the overall effect of vaccination on mental health may be greater than what the study could capture. It could also extend to people who are not vaccinated. The authors note that even if they aren't vaccinated, people who have not been vaccinated may still feel less worried about their loved ones dying or getting sick. They could also benefit from the economic and social opportunities offered by widespread vaccination.
This just shows that vaccination doesn't just affect your health, it also improves the health of everyone around you.
COVID-19 is still being studied by experts. This story contains information that was available at the time of publication. However, guidance may change as scientists learn more about the virus. For the latest recommendations, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This article was originally published on HuffPost. It has since been updated.