Wednesday, January 26, 2022

People With Depression More Likely to Endorse Misinformation About COVID Vaccines

Individuals with moderate to severe depressive symptoms are more likely to say they believe misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines than those without depressive symptoms, according to a report in JAMA Open Network. Moreover, individuals who believed misinformation about COVID vaccines were less likely to be vaccinated or be willing to get the vaccine.

“As such, individuals already burdened with depression may be at a higher risk of COVID-19,” wrote lead author Roy H. Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed data from U.S. adults who responded to at least one of two online surveys conducted between April 1 and May 3, 2021, and between June 9 and July 7, 2021. The surveys were part of The COVID States Project, which has issued surveys approximately once every six weeks since April 2020.

As part of these surveys, the respondents were asked to indicate whether they believed the following statements to be accurate or inaccurate: “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.”

Survey participants also completed the Patient Health Questionnaire 9-item (PHQ-9) to assess whether they had major depressive symptoms over the preceding two weeks, with a score of 10 indicating at least moderate depression.

Among 15,464 survey respondents (64% of whom were women), 4,164 (26.9%) had at least moderate depressive symptoms on the PHQ-9, and 2,964 respondents (19.2%) indicated they believed at least one vaccine-related statement of misinformation. People with depressive symptoms were 2.33 times more likely to endorse misinformation than those who did not have depressive symptoms.

The researchers also analyzed a subset of 2,809 individuals who answered both surveys. They found that people who reported depressive symptoms in the first survey were more likely to mark more vaccine-related statements of misinformation as true in the second survey.

The association between depression and endorsement of misinformation “persisted with adjustment for sociodemographic features as well as self-reported ideology and political party affiliation,” according to the authors.

They concluded, “While this study design cannot address causation, the association between depression and spread and impact of misinformation merits further investigation.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Vaccination Conversations: Influencing Critical Health Behaviors in COVID-19.”

(Image: iStock/BlackJack3D)

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