Covid-19 vaccine drive eased anxiety in the US, study finds

Rates of depression fell by more than a quarter in first year of pandemic as inoculation campaigns were launched

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The Covid-19 vaccine is delivering a shot in the arm for mental as well as physical wellbeing, researchers have found.

Rates of anxiety and depression dropped significantly in the US as vaccination campaigns were launched across the country, a study in medical journal The Lancet revealed.

The rise of coronavirus has not only posed a deadly threat to physical health but is estimated to have caused close to 130 million new cases of depression and anxiety worldwide.

But the steady increase of inoculation drives appears to have mitigated concerns over the virus.

Researchers at the University of Southern California surveyed people in the US on their mental health, as access to vaccines was expanded across the country.

Figures show the US depression rate was slashed by 27 per cent since the Covid-19 vaccination became widely available, while anxiety was reduced by 28 per cent in the sample of 8,003 adults surveyed from March 2020 until March 2021.

The biggest improvements in mental health were found in African-Americans, those renting their homes and others earning less than $35,000 (Dh128,000) a year.

A drop in anxiety was reported more commonly in government workers and households with children.

More than 530 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US to date, with 63 per cent of the public fully vaccinated.

Researchers found people in the US were fives times more likely to pay for mental health treatment outside their health insurance coverage, than for physical care.

A similar pattern has been recorded in the UAE across the pandemic, with counsellors at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai reporting a 20 per cent rise in people asking for help.

“The pandemic has caused much turmoil across the world but it’s important that we also take the positives where we can find them,” said Mandeep Jassal, a behavioural therapist at the clinic.

“One of these is the fact that conversations about mental health have become much more commonplace – it is no longer an issue which is simply brushed under the carpet.

“As a result, people are also more likely to seek professional help.”

A survey conducted by The Priory found 1 in 3 of its clients said Covid-19 had been the most stressful and anxiety-ridden period of their life, while a quarter said the state of their mental health had been exacerbated by fear of job loss or their finances.

Almost half, 49 per cent, said stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed during the pandemic had made it difficult to do their job properly.

Mental health-related disorders have steadily increased worldwide since 1990, partly due to better diagnoses and recognition of known illnesses.

The Lancet said that from 1990 to 2019 the number of disability-adjusted life-years – a metric used to understand the effects of ill health – increased from 80.8 million to 125.3 million.

From 204 countries and territories assessed, Australasia, Tropical Latin America and high-income North America were most affected by an increase in reported mental heath issues.

Mental disorders remain in the top 10 leading causes of ill heath in the most recent 'burden of disease' figures from 2019.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 3:00 AM