Viral Fake Health News Endangers Us All

Public believe more than half of fake news about healthcare spread online, major study reveals

by Kingston University, London

phys.org – New research by leading health economists from Kingston University in London has revealed more than 60 percent of fake news read online about healthcare issues is considered credible—and trust in such claims increases if a story is seen multiple times.

With vaccine hesitancy named as one of the 10 biggest global threats by the World Health Organisation, discriminating between scientifically proven facts and fake news is becoming increasingly important in safeguarding public health.

Yet a major new piece of research by leading health economists from Kingston University has revealed more than 60 percent of fake news read online about healthcare issues is considered credible—and trust in such claims increases if a story is seen multiple times.

The study, by Professor Giampiero Favato and Dr. Andrea Marcellusi from Kingston Business School, also revealed web banners warning audiences about the potential inaccuracy of information were ineffective in limiting its circulation—with users just as likely to share content labeled as unverified.

Professor Favato said:

“The belief in fake news stories about healthcare is understandable. Most people do not have specialist medical knowledge, so if claims are put in a way that sounds like they make sense, why would the public not believe them? One of our most concerning findings is that prior exposure to stories increases credibility—repetition counts, so the more someone sees something, the more they believe it.”

More than 1,900 people aged between 18 and 60 from a wide range of backgrounds were recruited to take part in the research, commissioned by the Italian Government’s Ministry of Health. Read more. 

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