Trust issues | 

Research suggests Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy could be linked to childhood trauma

The study found that those who had four types of adverse childhood experiences were more likely to be a vaccine sceptic

Clodagh Meaney

New research has suggested that Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy could be linked to childhood trauma.

The research found that refusal or reluctance to get vaccinated against Covid-19 may be linked to traumatic childhood events such as neglect, abuse or a parental divorce.

Public health experts also found that those who experienced childhood trauma are least likely to trust official Covid-19 information, follow restrictions or wear masks during the pandemic.

The findings are part of a study funded by Public Health Wales which surveyed 2,285 people aged 18 and over in Wales during lockdown restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

Participants were asked about nine different Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) as well as their trust in NHS Covid-19 information, whether they favoured the removal of measures such as social distancing, face coverings, and restrictions, and vaccine hesitancy.

ACES included neglect, physical, psychological or sexual abuse, growing up in a home with domestic violence, substance and or alcohol abuse and or crime.

Participants were also quizzed about their parent’s marital status, abandonment and or having a parent with a mental illness.

Half of those who took part in the research did not experience any form of childhood trauma.

1 in 5 endured at least one of the ACES, 1 in 5 reported enduring two or three ACES, with 1 in 10 reporting four or more.

The results of the study suggested that the more childhood trauma that was reported by a participant, the more likely they were to mistrust Covid-19 information, feel unfairly restricted by the government, and to support the removal of restrictions such as mandatory face masks.

Research also found that people with four or more ACES were twice more likely to break Covid rules and three times more likely to be a vaccine sceptic.

Participants that reported four ACES were also more likely to have a desire to scrap social distancing.

38% of those aged 18 to 29 with four or more ACES were vaccine sceptics, with the older age group more likely to have a vaccine.

Researchers also acknowledged that their findings relied on personal recall and pointed out that people who have suffered childhood trauma were “known to have greater health risks across the life-course.”

“Results here suggest such individuals may have more difficulty with compliance with public health control measures and consequently require additional support”.

They also found that women were overrepresented in the study, while people from ethnic minority backgrounds were underrepresented.

Researchers concluded that a “better understanding of how to increase their trust in health systems and compliance with health guidance is urgently required.”

“Without consideration of how best to engage such individuals, some risk being effectively excluded from population health interventions, remaining at higher risks of infection and posing a potential transmission risk to others.”

It comes as the public health experts are urgently trying to find out why almost 1 in 10 people in the UK have not yet had a single dose of the vaccine.

However it must be noted that this was an observational study and could not establish the exact cause of vaccine hesitancy.

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