Infodemics and health misinformation: a systematic review of reviews
Autorinnen/Autoren: Israel Júnior Borges do Nascimento, Ana Beatriz Pizarro, Jussara M. Almeida, Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, Marcos André Gonçalves, Maria Björklunde, David Novillo-Ortiz
The objective of this systematic review is the comparison and summarisation of literature about infodemics and misinformation referring to health. Infodemics often occur in time of crisis (e.g. infectious disease outbreaks) and are defined as a flood of online information consisting of either false and misleading information or correct content. 31 systematic reviews were included in this study.
Negative effects of misinformation during an infodemic includes the alteration of people´s attitude towards the situation, such as:
- twisting the interpretation of scientific evidence
- opinion polarization and echo chamber effects
- offering non-specialist´s opinions to counter accurate information
- encouraging fear and panic
- increasing mental and physical fatigue of population
- decreasing credibility of circulating information on different platforms during unforeseen circumstances
Regarding the health system, infodemics could lead to:
- misallocation of resources and increasing stress among medical providers
- decreased access to health care
- increased vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy beliefs
- delayed delivery of high-quality care and proper treatment to patients
Furthermore, social media is playing a leading role in the fast dissemination of health-related misinformation. Four reviews have assessed the proportion of health misinformation on different social media platforms, with the proportion ranging from 0.2% to 28.8%.
However, also positive outcomes related to infodemics on social media could be found:
- social media can be used for crisis communication and management, regardless of the geographical setting
- disseminating information on various social media platforms can improve knowledge awareness and compliance to health recommendations
Measures against infodemics and health misinformation, such as the development of legal policies, the creation of awareness campaigns, the improvement of health-related content in mass media and the increasement of people´s digital and health literacy, are needed.