People who feel depressed are more likely to believe vaccine-related misinformation, according to a new study.

The research comes at a time when depression rates are higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, which appears in the JAMA Network Open, finds that people with moderate or greater symptoms of depression (such as little interest in doing things, trouble sleeping or concentrating, poor appetite or overeating, and feeling bad about yourself) were more likely to believe at least 1 of 4 false statements about COVID-19 vaccines. Those who believed the statements to be true were half as likely to be vaccinated.

According to National Center for Health Statistics, approximately one-quarter of adults in the US have consistently reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings suggest people with depression may be at a higher risk of COVID-19, highlighting the need to address mental health disorders.

According to the data, 29.3% of people with moderate or more depressive symptoms supported this misinformation, compared with 15.1% of those without.

While the researchers did not examine why, the link may be driven by a negativity bias, which causes people with depression to focus more on content that evokes negative emotions.

“It’s clear the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the mental health of Americans, especially young people,” says co-author Katherine Ognyanova, an associate professor of communication at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. “Now more than ever, we must watch for depressive symptoms among our communities, but platforms and the media also have a major role to play to avoid undesirable health outcomes.”

Read the full article about mental health and vaccine misinformation by Megan Schumann at Futurity.