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Health-protective behaviour, social media usage, and conspiracy belief during the COVID 19 public health emergency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date9 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2020

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King's Authors

Abstract

Background

Social media platforms have long been recognised as major disseminators of health misinformation. Many previous studies have found a negative association between health-protective behaviours and belief in the specific form of misinformation popularly known as ‘conspiracy theory’. Concerns have arisen regarding the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.

Methods

Three questionnaire surveys of social media use, conspiracy beliefs, and health-protective behaviours with regard to COVID-19 among UK residents were carried out online, one using a self-selecting sample (N = 949) and two using stratified random samples from a recruited panel (N = 2250, N = 2254).

Results

All three studies found a negative relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and COVID-19 health-protective behaviours, and a positive relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and use of social media as a source of information about COVID-19. Studies 2 and 3 also found a negative relationship between COVID-19 health-protective behaviours and use of social media as a source of information, and Study 3 found a positive relationship between health-protective behaviours and use of broadcast media as a source of information.

Conclusions

When used as an information source, unregulated social media may present a health risk that is partly but not wholly reducible to their role as disseminators of health-related conspiracy beliefs.

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