Health misinformation abounds in the results of a recent survey of American adults on medical conspiracy theories.
Misinformation about health remains widespread and popular.
Half of Americans subscribe to medical conspiracy theories, with more than one-third of people thinking that the Food and Drug Administration is deliberately keeping natural cures for cancer off the market because of pressure from drug companies, a survey finds.
Twenty percent of people said that cellphones cause cancer — and that large corporations are keeping health officials from doing anything about it. And another 20 percent think doctors and the government want to vaccinate children despite knowing that vaccines cause autism.
The findings of the survey are available in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
Oliver JE, Wood T. Medical Conspiracy Theories and Health Behaviors in the United States. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 17, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.190
According to the survey, the following six medical conspiracy theories were polled:
|Conspiracy Narrative||Heard Before||Agree||Neither Agree nor Disagree||Disagree|
|FDA deliberately preventing public from getting natural cancer cures because of pressure from drug companies||63%||37%||31%||32%|
|Health officials know cell phones cause cancer but do nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them||57%||20%||40%||40%|
|CIA deliberately infected large numbers of African Americans with HIV under the guise of hepatitis immunization||32%||12%||37%||51%|
|Global dissemination of genetically modified foods by Monsanto Inc is part of secret program, “Agenda 21,” by Rockefeller and Ford foundations to reduce world population||19%||12%||46%||42%|
|Doctors and government still want to vaccinate children, knowing these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders||69%||20%||36%||44%|
|Public water fluoridation is secret way for chemical companies dispose of dangerous byproducts of operating phosphate mines||25%||12%||41%||46%|
(Source: Oliver 2014)
As you might expect, for the most part, the more widespread (i.e. the more people who have heard of a medical conspiracy narrative), the more widely accepted or agreed upon the narrative is.
One particularly pervasive conspiracy theory narrative in the bunch was that of the suppressed cancer cure. Note in the above figure that acceptance of a medical myth scales with exposure, but the cancer cure suppression conspiracy theory is able to “outlie” its brethren. Is this in part due to widespread misleading claims (as described by Texas medical authorities and others) about dubious therapies, as Doubtful News has covered several times?
- You’re Not Alone: Medical Conspiracies Believed By Many (Reuters)
- Nearly half of Americans subscribe to a medical conspiracy theory (Los Angeles Times)
- We’re a nation of medical conspiracy nuts (Chicago Sun-Times)