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What We Discovered About Our Health in 2021

In 2021, U.S. healthcare experienced many challenges and triumphs. Although the pandemic maintained its hold on hospital systems and healthcare workers for most of the year, when vaccines rolled out in winter and spring, many people let out large sighs of relief.

Now the highly contagious Omicron variant poses new obstacles as we ring in 2022. However, despite the lingering presence of the coronavirus, science didn’t stop progressing in 2021. Researchers learned many new things about mental health, dermatology and more.

(Here at Zocdoc, we’ve written about everything from the change in the 2021 flu season to new research looking at postpartum depression in men and new ways doctors are approaching climate change in their clinical practices.)

To wrap up the year the right way, we checked in with three prominent experts in their fields about some of the exciting things we’ve learned about the human body in 2021. They also weighed in on what they hope to see more of in the future.

Mental health

Whitney Goodman, LMFT

Owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, a private therapy practice

What are some of the most interesting things we’ve learned about the human mind this year?

I work with people who are struggling in their relationships and am primarily interested in brain science within the context of relationships. I found this study on social connection being the strongest protective factor for depression very interesting, especially amid the isolating factors of the pandemic. 


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Meanwhile, another study on intimate partner aggression used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brain activity of 51 male-female romantic couples as they experienced intimate partner aggression in real time. They found that aggression toward intimate partners was associated with aberrant activity in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with the ability to foster perceptions of closeness with and value of other people.

So cool! Beyond the research, what big developments have you seen unfold in the therapy space?

Therapy has become more democratized and is moving into the mainstream dialogue. I think we’re seeing more people talking about therapy and considering going.

What should people expect to see more of from psychology in 2022?

More conversations, more research and more honesty about mental health.

Skin care

Michelle Henry, MD

Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan
New York

What’s the most interesting thing we learned about skin this year?

We’ve learned about what can happen to your skin if you contract COVID-19. Because of this, dermatologists have a better sense of the connection between internal disease and skin health.

We have also learned a lot more about “maskne”! We’ve learned more on how microenvironments, like the small pools of humidity created by wearing face masks, can cause breakouts and other problems.

What’s the dermatology forecast for 2022?

We should see an increase in more effective laser therapy. There’s also been a big push toward noninvasive body contouring. The beauty space as a whole is expanding its reach. We’ll likely see products targeting a wider age range, including members of Gen Z, Baby Boomers and men, who are often overlooked in the skin care space.

Heart health 

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD

Private practice
New York

What is the most striking thing 2021 taught us about heart health?

We thought COVID-19 was a disease of the lungs, but it’s also, perhaps foremost, a disease of the heart. I expect we’ll see more heart-related problems in the future due to the spread of COVID. If you consider that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in women, this is a very disturbing and immediate concern.

What do you hope to see more from your field in 2022?

More prevention! Too much of cardiology is focused on expensive treatments when people get sick. Prevention is cheaper, improves quality of life and costs significantly less, saving the medical system potentially billions of dollars each year. 

Responses have been lightly edited and condensed.

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The Paper Gown, a Zocdoc-powered blog, strives to tell stories that help patients feel informed, empowered and understood. Views and opinions expressed on The Paper Gown do not necessarily reflect those of Zocdoc, Inc. Learn more.