For the first time in the world, a team of researchers from the University of Limerick has found that low neighborhood cohesion is linked to antibody responses to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is important because the more antibodies a person produces, the higher the level of protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
In a study published in the prestigious journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, a team of researchers demonstrated that lower social cohesion also makes people feel more alone, and this is an additional factor in reducing the response to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Social cohesion is the degree of social cohesion and solidarity between different social groups in a society, including levels of trust and connection between individuals and between social groups.
Professor Stephen Gallagher, lead author and director of the Anxiety Stress and Health Laboratory at UL, said that low social cohesion is a “social stressor and we have long known that these psychosocial stressors can have devastating effects on the immune system in general, as well as antibody response after vaccination, which we demonstrated earlier. Thus, it made sense to study the antibody response to COVID-19 vaccination.”
Using data from more than 600 people who took part in the Understanding Society UK COVID-19 Antibody Study in March 2021, the researchers examined whether factors such as social cohesion and loneliness have a negative impact on people’s antibody response to the COVID-19 vaccine. .
The authors found that lower social cohesion predicted a lower response to a single dose COVID-19 vaccine; those who felt less connected to their neighborhood, had less trust in their neighbors, felt unsupported, or less like their neighbors developed fewer antibodies compared to those who reported higher social cohesion.
In addition, those who reported lower social cohesion tended to report feeling more alone, which in turn lowered their antibody response.
Professor Orla Muldoon, who was a member of the Irish National Public Health Emergencies Team (NPHET) Behavior and Communications Advisory Panel and co-author of the paper, said these findings further underline the importance of public trust and social cohesion for a successful pandemic response.
“Public and neighborhood trust, social cohesion and loneliness came to the fore during the pandemic. For example, during the first localizations, the feeling that we are together was an often used mantra. played bingo in the apartments – all this increased social cohesion and trust of the society,” Professor Muldoon explained.
“These feelings of social cohesion and trust were short-lived; what British researchers now refer to as the ‘Dominic Cummings effect’. A similar decline in trust levels was seen in the US during these periods. Along with this, the lockdown led to social risks such as reduced social interaction and increased risk of loneliness”
“In addition to showing their role in antibody responses, the results of this study also promote adherence to public health recommendations and vaccine use,” Professor Muldoon added.
Dr. Siobhan Howard, co-author of the study, added that loneliness is “a well-known risk factor for several diseases, with immune suppression likely being the main pathway. Thus, this study adds to the growing body of evidence linking loneliness to poor health.”