Social media platforms have long been recognised as major disseminators of health misinformation. Many previous studies have found a negative association between health-protective behaviours and belief in the specific form of misinformation popularly known as ‘conspiracy theory’. Concerns have arisen regarding the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.
All three studies found a negative relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and COVID-19 health-protective behaviors, and a positive relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and use of social media as a source of information about COVID-19. Studies 2 and 3 also found a negative relationship between COVID-19 health-protective behaviors and use of social media as a source of information, and Study 3 found a positive relationship between health-protective behaviors and use of broadcast media as a source of information.
The conclusion of the authors is that, when used as an information source, unregulated social media may present a health risk that is partly but not wholly reducible to their role as disseminators of health-related conspiracy beliefs.