December 10, 2023

People who suffer from mental health problems are at a higher risk for breakthrough COVID-19 infections after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new study.

The research: Scientists in California reviewed more than 250,000 fully vaccinated patients within the U.S. Veterans Affairs health system.

  • Most of the patients were men with at least one psychiatric diagnosis in the last five years.
  • About 14.8% of those patients developed COVID-19 infections despite being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The bottom line: People who were over 65 years old with “substance abuse, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorder or anxiety” had a 24% higher risk of breakthrough COVID-19, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the JAMA Network Open.

What they said: “Our research suggests that increased breakthrough infections in people with psychiatric disorders cannot be entirely explained by socio-demographic factors or pre-existing conditions,” said lead study author Aoife O’Donovan, who works at the San Francisco VA Health Care System, according to Reuters.

  • “It’s possible that immunity following vaccination wanes more quickly or more strongly for people with psychiatric disorders and/or they could have less protection to newer variants,” O’Donovan added.

The bigger picture: There have been links between mental health problems and COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic.

  • A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that those who survived COVID-19 infections were at an increased risk of developing mental health conditions.
  • The study compared patients who did not catch COVID-19 to those who did.
  • The research found those who caught the coronavirus had increased risk of anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, stress and adjustment disorders, according to the Deseret News’ Ashley Nash.