Can COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Be Linked to Traumatic Childhood Events?

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: March 8, 2022

Research published in the open-access journal, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open, suggested reluctance towards getting vaccinated against COVID-19 may result from disturbing ordeals during childhood. The research also revealed that unsettling situations experienced in childhood, such as domestic violence, neglect, living with a mentally unstable guardian, alcohol, or drug misuse, may affect vaccine hesitancy.

The researchers reasoned that childhood experiences are linked with mental health. Therefore, mistreatment as a child may reduce subsequent trust, including health care and other public services.

To explore this further, they organized a telephone survey of adults living in Wales between December 2020 and March 2021, during which COVID-19 guidelines were being enforced. Of all 6763 people contacted, only 2285 people met all eligibility criteria, and they answered all questions and were subsequently included in the study.

The survey revealed that vaccine hesitancy was three times higher among people who have witnessed four or more types of trauma as a child when compared to those who had never seen any. The survey listed about 9 nine types of childhood trauma before the age of 18. These included: physical, verbal, and sexual abuse; parental separation; exposure to domestic violence; and living with a household member with alcohol or drug misuse, mental illness, or prison.

About half of the respondents revealed that they hadn’t witnessed any disturbing ordeal during childhood. But 1 in 5 said they had experienced 1 type; around 1 in 6 (17%) reported 2-3 incidences, and 1 in 10 (10%) reported four or more. Based on all of the responses, researchers approximated the likely rates of vaccine hesitancy according to age and childhood trauma. The report showed that while approximately 3.5% of those aged 70 and above experienced no childhood trauma, 38% of 18-29-year-olds had witnessed four or more types of childhood trauma.

An increase in the number of childhood traumas was associated with the distrust in NHS COVID-19 information, feelings that imposed government restrictions were unjust, and requests that obligatory use of face coverings be scrapped. People with experience of four or more types of childhood trauma also expressed a desire to end public distancing. The probability of admitting to flouting COVID-19 guidelines rose proportionately with the childhood ordeal rate.

It was observed that the likelihood of individuals to defy guidelines was almost twice as high (38% vs. 21%) among those who had gone through 4 or more types of traumas versus those who hadn’t experienced any trauma. The researchers emphasized that people who have experienced childhood trauma suffer more significant health risks during their lives. The research suggests such people may find it difficult to conform to public health control measures and, as a result, require support.

A better understanding of how best to gain their trust in the health systems and compliance with health guidance is urgently needed. This is important not only for the current pandemic but for other public health challenges that may arise in the future.


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Post Tags:Pediatric
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