Study: “Belief in Conspiracy Theories Associated with Vaccine Skepticism”

The American Psychological Association has released a study which found evidence that belief in anti-vaccine conspiracies is associated with belief in other conspiracy theories. According to the press release:

“The study is the first to test the relationship between conspiracy beliefs and antivaccination attitudes among a global sample, according to Hornsey. The research was published in the journal Health Psychology®.

Hornsey and his co-authors surveyed 5,323 people from 24 countries on five continents using online questionnaires between March 31 and May 11, 2016, measuring antivaccination attitudes and belief in four conspiracy theories: that Princess Diana was murdered; that the American government knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance and chose to let them happen; that a shadowy group of elites exist to plot a new world order; and that John F. Kennedy was murdered as part of an elaborate plot.

Those with strong beliefs in conspiracies were most likely to hold antivaccination attitudes regardless of where they lived. For example, the more people believed that Princess Diana was murdered, the more negative attitudes they had about vaccinations. In contrast, level of education had a very small impact on antivaccination attitudes.”

This should not be surprising as some of the conspiracy theories around immunizations have many of the same qualities as other conspiracy theories. For example, some anti-vaccine groups promote the idea that philanthropic organizations and individuals aim to de-populate the planet, or to cause some sort of harm at a mass scale, just like the conspiracy theories about the attacks on September 11, 2001. Other examples also include the belief that some large group of people are actively working to silence dissent or to punish those who dare speak against vaccines. There is no evidence that any of that is the case.

The entire journal article is available for downloading and reading: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/hea-hea0000586.pdf

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renenajera Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

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