People who believe coronavirus conspiracies are less likely to comply with social-distancing guidelines or take up future vaccines, new research suggests.
Almost three fifths (59%) of adults in England believe to some extent that the Government is misleading the public about the cause of the virus.
More than a fifth (21%) believe the virus is a hoax, and 62% agree to some extent that the virus is man-made, scientists say.
The research, led by clinical psychologists at the University of Oxford and published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicates the number of adults in England do not agree with the scientific and governmental consensus on the Covid-19 pandemic.
The authors write: “Higher levels of coronavirus conspiracy thinking were associated with less adherence to all Government guidelines and less willingness to take diagnostic or antibody tests or to be vaccinated.
“Such ideas were also associated with paranoia, general vaccination conspiracy beliefs, climate change conspiracy belief, a conspiracy mentality, and distrust in institutions and professions.
“Holding coronavirus conspiracy beliefs was also associated with being more likely to share opinions.”
From May 4-11, 2,500 adults – representative of the English population for age, gender, region, and income – took part in the Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (Oceans) online.
Researchers found that approximately 50% of this population showed little evidence of conspiracy thinking, 25% showed a degree of endorsement, 15% showed a consistent pattern of endorsement, and 10% had very high levels of endorsement.
Higher levels of coronavirus conspiracy thinking were associated with less adherence to all Government guidelines and less willingness to take diagnostic or antibody tests or to be vaccinated, the study suggests.
Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology, University of Oxford, and consultant clinical psychologist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation, said: “Our study indicates that coronavirus conspiracy beliefs matter.
“Those who believe in conspiracy theories are less likely to follow government guidance, for example, staying home, not meeting with people outside their household, or staying two metres apart from other people when outside.
“Those who believe in conspiracy theories also say that they are less likely to accept a vaccination, take a diagnostic test, or wear a face mask.”
When asked whether they believed that coronavirus is a bio-weapon developed by China to destroy the West, 55% said they did not agree.
While 79% said they did not agree that coronavirus is caused by 5G and is a form of radiation poisoning transmitted through radio waves.
More than one fifth of those questioned (22%) said they do not agree the virus is naturally occurring, and 75% did not agree that celebrities are being paid to say they have Covid-19.