Many Americans believe discredited medical conspiracy theories
Do you think there’s a link between cell phones and brain tumors, vaccines and autism, and HIV and the CIA? You’re not alone. A new survey from the University of Chicago found that almost 50 percent of Americans believe at least one of these discredited health conspiracy theories.
The survey gauged beliefs in six widely discussed medical conspiracy theories. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed think the Food and Drug Administration is keeping cures for cancer and other diseases away from the public. One in five still think vaccinations are linked to autism and other psychological disorders—and that doctors push these vaccinations on children in spite of that link. Twenty percent say health officials are hiding evidence that cell phones cause cancer. Still others think the CIA deliberately infected African Americans with HIV.
“There are a lot of people out there that harbor these beliefs,” says study co-author Eric Oliver, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, even when scientific evidence proves the theories are wrong. “What we take away from that is that people who embrace these conspiracies are very suspicious of traditional evidence-based medicine.”
They are also more inclined to make risky health decisions. Survey participants who believed in at least three of the conspiracy theories are less likely to get flu shots, use sunscreen or have an annual physical.