Medical Conspiracy Theories: How Do They Affect Health Behaviors?

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There are many different medical conspiracy theories circulating in the United States, but the question is: do you know all of them? If so, do you believe them? Those are the two questions the University of Chicago’s J. Eric Oliver, PhD, Department of Political Science, hoped to answer in his study published Monday, and he also went on to ascertain whether a belief of certain conspiracy theories correlated with actual health behaviors. Oliver’s report was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, and there, readers could see that Oliver carried out his study by conducting a nationally representative, online survey sample of 1351 adults who were collected in August and September of 2013 via an Internet market research company. Oliver’s research results were later approved by the institutional review board of the University of Chicago, and published Monday.

In his research, Oliver first wanted to test the spread of knowledge surrounding six different medical conspiracies. According JAMA Internal Medicine, he found that the conspiracy theories about cancer cures, vaccines, and cell phones were familiar to at least half of the respondents, while those about water fluoridation, genetically modified foods, and the link between the human immunodeficiency virus and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were less well known. For example, 63 percent of those sampled responded that they had heard of the narrative that the FDA is deliberately suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure, while only 19 percent answered that they had knowledge of the theory regarding the idea that the global dissemination of GMOs by Monsanto Inc. is part of a secret program that was launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to shrink the world’s population.

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