Anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may have 'detrimental consequences' for children's health

February 25, 2014, University of Kent

A belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may have significant and detrimental consequences for children's health, new research from the University of Kent has shown.

Researchers Daniel Jolley and Dr Karen Douglas, of the University's School of Psychology, surveyed 89 parents about their views on anti-vaccine and then asked them to indicate their to have a fictional child vaccinated. It was found that stronger belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories was associated with lower intention to vaccinate.

In a second study, 188 participants were exposed to information concerning anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It was found that reading this material reduced their intention to have a fictional child vaccinated, relative to participants who were given refuting information or those in a control condition.

Daniel Jolley said: 'This research is timely in the face of declining and recent outbreaks of vaccinated-against diseases in the UK, such as measles. Our studies demonstrate that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may present a barrier to vaccine uptake, which may potentially have significant and detrimental consequences for children's health.'

Dr Douglas added: 'It is easy to treat belief in conspiracy theories lightly, but our studies show that wariness about conspiracy theories may be warranted. Ongoing investigations are needed to further identify the social consequences of conspiracism and to identify potential ways to combat the effects of an ever-increasing culture of conspiracism.'

Explore further: Psychologists investigate online communication of conspiracy theories

More information: PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089177.

Related Stories

Psychologists investigate online communication of conspiracy theories

July 10, 2013
Research by psychologists at the University of Kent has found that people who argue in favour of conspiracy theories use different persuasive strategies from those who argue against them.

Conspiracy theories not to blame for underrepresentation in HIV studies

August 28, 2013
Even though most Americans believe some kind of conspiracy theory about HIV care and research, many are willing to take part in vaccine trails, according to a new study by Ryan Westergaard of the University of Wisconsin School ...

Vaccinating boys plays key role in HPV prevention

July 22, 2013
Improving vaccination rates against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in boys is key to protecting both men and women, says new research from University of Toronto Professor Peter A. Newman from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty ...

More parents say they won't vaccinate daughters against HPV, researchers find

March 18, 2013
A rising percentage of parents say they won't have their teen daughters vaccinated to protect against the human papilloma virus, even though physicians are increasingly recommending adolescent vaccinations, a study by Mayo ...

Vaccine coverage high in U.S., but measles outbreaks a concern: CDC

September 13, 2013
(HealthDay)—Vaccination rates among America's children remain high, despite a serious resurgence of measles among unvaccinated children and adults, health officials reported Thursday.

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

KelDude
1 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2014
I have two very close friends both of which have a child that was vaccinated at 2 years old and mentally got "stuck" right there. The children are both in the 30's now and are still at the 2 year old mental capacity level. Hard to say there was "no link" to the vaccinations when both were affected significantly right after a vaccination. Its very hard to support vaccinations after what they experienced.
Howard_Vickridge
5 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2014
KelDude, tragic though your friends' experiences have been, it is just this sort of anecdotal 'evidence' that fuels activists against vaccination, and makes some parents hesitate. Numerous peer-reviewed studies and a number of metanalyses have looked for and failed to establish a causal relationship between vaccination and brain injury/damage. There are a swag of possible side-effects from vaccinations (and pretty much anything else we put into our bodies), and in rare instances they can be profoundly damaging side-effects (e.g. untreated anaphlaxis in a person with previously unknown albumen allergy). However, the benefits of vaccines - both for an individual and also across a population - vastly outweigh the risks. How many parents refuse to have their child use motorised transport? Look at risks; taking kids in the car puts them at a far higher chance of being injured or killed than any vaccine does. If anti-vaxers drive kids in a car they are flakey about real risk assessment.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.