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Summarising data and factors associated with COVID‑19 related conspiracy theories in the first year of the pandemic: a systematic review and narrative synthesis

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Konstantinos Tsamakis, Dimitrios Tsiptsios, Brendon Stubbs, Ruimin Ma, Eugenia Romano, Christoph Mueller, Ayesha Ahmad, Andreas S. Triantafyllis, George Tsitsas, Elena Dragioti

Original languageEnglish
Article number244
JournalBMC Psychology
Volume10
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2022
DOIs
Accepted/In press20 Oct 2022
E-pub ahead of print1 Nov 2022
PublishedDec 2022

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Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).

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Abstract

Conspiracy theories can have particularly harmful effects by negatively shaping health-related behaviours. A significant number of COVID-19 specific conspiracy theories emerged in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic outbreak. The aim of this study was to systematically review the literature on conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic (2020), to identify their prevalence, their determinants and their public health consequences. A comprehensive literature search was carried out in PubMed and PsycINFO to detect all studies examining any conspiracy theory related to COVID-19 between January 1st 2020, and January 10th 2021. Forty-three studies were included with a total of 61,809 participants. Between 0.4 and 82.7% of participants agreed with at least one conspiracy belief. Certain sociodemographic factors (young age, female gender, being non-white, lower socioeconomic status), psychological aspects (pessimism, blaming others, anger) and other qualities (political conservatism, religiosity, mistrust in science and using social media as source of information) were associated with increased acceptance of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy beliefs led to harmful health-related behaviours and posed a serious public health threat. Large-scale collaborations between governments and healthcare organizations are needed to curb the spread of conspiracy theories and their adverse consequences.

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