“Decreased neighborhood trust and connection negatively affects our COVID-19 antibody responses”
Social cohesion and loneliness are associated with antibody response to COVID-19 vaccination
New research led by SASHlab director Professor Stephen Gallagher has found that lower neighborhood cohesiveness was associated with antibody response to the COVID-19 vaccine. Lower social cohesion also made people feel lonelier, and this was an additional factor in reducing antibody responses to the vaccine.
This study is a classic case of medical mind-body, whereby our feelings/emotions generated by interacting with our social worlds can influence our immune system.
Antibodies are a central component of our adaptive immune system’s ability to fight infections, including COVID-19. As we have learned during the current pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines were part of the global strategy to combat COVID-19. Having the vaccine was important because the antibodies produced after a vaccination offered protection against hospitalization and death. However, when people do not produce enough antibodies after a vaccination, they are often vulnerable to infection or re-infection, which is why we were encouraged to get booster shots.
The influence of factors such as stress in our immunity, including the antibody response to vaccination, is well established. Research has found that the chronic stress has a negative impact on our immune system, by increasing our vulnerability to infections, increasing levels of inflammation but also reduce our ability to produce antibodies after vaccinations.
On the contrary, it has been found that social relationships Better quality vaccines increase immunity (eg, lower levels of inflammation) and increase antibody levels after a vaccine. As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, stress was pervasive, from managing multiple lockdowns, job losses, increased social restrictions and decreased social participation, as well as misinformation and public trust issues coming to light, all which created a sense of social stressors.
Therefore, given the negative impact of stress on our immune systems and, in particular, on reducing the antibody response to vaccines, in addition to COVID-19 antibody responses being a critical feature of successful vaccination, we wanted to see if social stressors such as social cohesion, that is, lower trust in neighbors, fewer neighborhood connections, and feelings of loneliness had a negative impact on our antibody response to those vaccines.