Can delay discounting predict vaccine hesitancy 4-years later? A study among US young adults

Roberta Freitas-Lemos, Devin C. Tomlinson, Yu Hua Yeh, Candice L. Dwyer, Hongying Daisy Dai, Adam Leventhal, Allison N. Tegge, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite being a major threat to health, vaccine hesitancy (i.e., refusal or reluctance to vaccinate despite vaccine availability) is on the rise. Using a longitudinal cohort of young adults (N = 1260) from Los Angeles County, California we investigated the neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Data were collected at two time points: during adolescence (12th grade; fall 2016; average age = 16.96 (±0.42)) and during young adulthood (spring 2021; average age = 21.33 (±0.49)). Main outcomes and measures were delay discounting (DD; fall 2016) and tendency to act rashly when experiencing positive and negative emotions (UPPS-P; fall 2016); self-reported vaccine hesitancy and vaccine beliefs/knowledge (spring 2021). A principal components analysis determined four COVID-19 vaccine beliefs/knowledge themes: Collective Responsibility, Confidence and Risk Calculation, Complacency, and Convenience. Significant relationships were found between themes, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and DD. Collective Responsibility (β = -1.158[-1.213,-1.102]) and Convenience (β = -0.132[-0.185,-0.078]) scores were negatively associated, while Confidence and Risk Calculation (β = 0.283[0.230,0.337]) and Complacency (β = 0.412[0.358,0.466]) scores were positively associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Additionally, Collective Responsibility (β = -0.060[-0.101,-0.018]) was negatively associated, and Complacency (β = -0.063[0.021,0.105]) was positively associated with DD from fall 2016. Mediation analysis revealed immediacy bias during adolescence, measured by DD, predicted vaccine hesitancy 4 years later while being mediated by two types of vaccine beliefs/knowledge: Collective Responsibility (β = 0.069[0.022,0.116]) and Complacency (β = 0.026[0.008,0.044]). These findings provide a further understanding of individual vaccine-related decision-making among young adults and inform public health messaging to increase vaccination acceptance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102280
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Decision-making
  • Delay discounting
  • Vaccine hesitancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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