December 9, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 68—Marital quality, and COVID-19 vaccine acceptance

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep people from seeing some of their loved ones, friends, and co-workers, it is also resulting in immediate family members, including couples, spending more time together. While the pandemic has put a strain on some couples, preliminary findings from a study by Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute found overall, early in the pandemic, most married people reported a positive impact on their marriage. The study looked at how the pandemic is affecting marital quality, sexual behavior, reproductive planning and health, and individual and family well-being. At the time of the study in April 2020, the pandemic was causing increased stress, worry, housework and childcare for some married individuals, resulting in a strain on the marriage, says William Yarber, senior scientist at Kinsey Institute. But for the most part, he says, individuals reported an increased sense of teamwork and connection. In fact, 74 percent agreed the pandemic had strengthened their marriage and 82 percent agreed it made them feel more committed to their marriage. Additionally, 85 percent said the pandemic was helping them appreciate their spouse more, helping them appreciate what a good life they had prior to the pandemic, and was also bringing their family closer together. The study found that even though many individuals experienced some stress from the pandemic, the overall marital emotional satisfaction stayed about the same for the majority of men and women. More women experienced a decrease in emotional and sexual satisfaction during the pandemic, while about equal proportions of men experienced an increase and a decrease. Researchers found women's decreases in emotional satisfaction were significantly correlated with higher ratings of overall stress because of coronavirus and increased work stress for their spouses. Stephanie Sanders, senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute, says early in the pandemic, the effects on gendered division of household and childcare labor contributed to negative impacts of the coronavirus on marriages. Kinsey researchers will conduct another national study this month to see how the impact has changed as the pandemic has continued.

As the world continues to cope with the impact of the pandemic, many are keeping an eye on the approval and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. But an important question looms: will people be willing to take it? Ross Silverman, a professor at IU’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and Robert H. McKinney School of Law, says mixed messages about the vaccine have led to inaccurate information floating around. However, he says the public health community, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies are being as transparent and informative as they can. Silverman says there has probably never been a more anticipated medical discovery than a COVID-19 vaccine, and there are more eyes watching this process than almost anything that he has ever seen in terms of development of new interventions. Dr. Darron Brown, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the IU School of Medicine and one of the researchers that created the HPV vaccine Gardasil, says the safety testing that goes into vaccines far exceeds the safety testing for any other medical device or medication. Dr. Gregory Zimet, professor of pediatrics in the IU School of Medicine, believes the speed of vaccine development and its politicization are the top concerns of Americans, but he says for the most part, corners are not being cut during the development process. In fact, Zimet says, because people are so desperate for the vaccine, recruitment of volunteers for the trial was much more rapid than usual. But does this signify that individuals will be more likely to get vaccinated when it’s available? Zimet says even with highly efficacious vaccines, it is important to understand that vaccination is a behavior, and people will ultimately have to decide to get vaccinated – an important consideration as distribution nears.