Helping News December, 2021 Issue 154
Getting vaccinated can help improve people’s health and well-being
By Christian E. Weller July 15, 2021, 9:00 am
Federal survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics show that getting vaccinated is correlated with immediate improvements in well-being. After being vaccinated, people may feel less stress—defined by the author as feeling anxious, worried, down, or uninterested most or all of the time. Less stress can reduce the possibility of developing physical health problems such as high blood pressure. Better health also lowers health care costs. Moreover, less stressed people tend to be better at planning for their future, including saving money and looking for new jobs.
Establishing causality between vaccinations and stress is difficult, but different data cuts suggest that higher vaccination levels may result in less stress, among other benefits. According to the federal survey, conducted from January 2021 to May 2021, 30 percent of people who had at least one vaccine shot reported being stressed, compared with 43.2 percent of people who were not vaccinated. This correlation is not an artifact of income, race, ethnicity, or age. In all subpopulations across the United States, people who were vaccinated felt less stress. And according to the author’s analysis of Census Bureau data, on average, over all two-week periods from January to May, the share of people who were stressed declined in states that experienced more rapid rises in vaccination rates.
Moreover, the mental health improvements are greater when the increase in vaccination rates is higher. The author’s analysis groups states’ vaccination rates in increments of 10 percentage points: 0 percent to 10 percent, 10 percent to 20 percent, 20 percent to 30 percent, and so on. For example, if a state’s vaccination rate moved from somewhere in the range of 0 percent to 10 percent to somewhere in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, or from somewhere in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent to somewhere in the range of 20 percent to 30 percent, and so on, the author included it in group 1. If a state moved from 0 percent to 10 percent to somewhere in the range of 20 percent to 30 percent, for instance, the author included it in group 2. If a state experienced no increase, the author included it in group 0.
If a state’s vaccination rate did not change across all two-week periods from January to May, its share of population that was stressed most or all of the time improved by an average of 0.8 percentage points, likely reflecting in part a slowly improving economy and abating pandemic; essentially, this is a baseline measure of how things would have improved without a sharp increase in vaccination rates. But if a state was included in group 1, meaning its vaccination rate jumped one group across all two-week periods from January to May, the share of its population that was stressed fell by an average of 1.3 percentage points. If the vaccination rate jumped by two groups, the share of people who were stressed dropped by an average of 2 percentage points. Finally, if the vaccination rate jumped by three groups, the share of stressed people dropped by 3.8 percentage points, on average. Overall, improvements in mental health were two to five times greater if vaccination rates quickly increased than they were in the baseline case.
Vaccinated people also tend to be more likely to seek necessary health care than people who are not vaccinated. According to the same Census Bureau data, 44.7 percent of unvaccinated people reported not seeking or delaying health care from January 2021 to May 2021. In comparison, only 30.5 percent of vaccinated people avoided or delayed care. As seen in the share of people who skipped or delayed health care dropped precipitously over the course of a month if a state’s vaccination share rose quickly. For example, if a state’s vaccination rate rose by one group—roughly 10 percentage points—the share of people who skipped or delayed health care fell by 1.9 percentage points. But if a state’s vaccination rate rose by two levels—closer to 20 percentage points—the share of people who skipped or delayed health care fell by 8.2 percentage points.
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