March 10, 2022 — New York — The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health reveals trust is a key determinant of health behaviors and outcomes. The study found a 21-percentage point difference (82 percent vs. 61 percent) in vaccination rates between those with higher and lower trust in the health ecosystem: the institutions, organizations and individuals that comprise health systems. Those with higher trust in the health ecosystem (72 percent) are also more accepting of evolving scientific recommendations and changing guidelines than those with lower trust (51 percent). Acceptance of public measures that may curb personal freedoms are also more welcome among those with higher trust in the health ecosystem (58 percent) compared to their lower-trusting counterparts (42 percent).
Trust in healthcare is under pressure from a variety of sources led by the impact of the pandemic. More than one out of every two respondents (52 percent) say the pandemic decreased their confidence that the healthcare system is well-equipped to handle major health crises. At the height of the pandemic, trust in healthcare companies spiked to 73 percent, but has since fallen to 62 percent. A majority (55 percent) worry medical science is becoming politicized or being used to support a specific political agenda.
“Trust has become as vital a force in determining health outcomes as physical environment, economic environment, social environment and personal choice or behavior,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “Trust in health will not be rebuilt in the short term and not through the classic channels of mainstream media. Instead, those with lower trust in the healthcare ecosystem must be engaged directly—through their doctors, pharmacists, faith-based organizations and employers.”
The study revealed that health trust is undermined by poor information and consumption habits. The leading sources for vaccine information among the unvaccinated are internet searches and friends and family, while the fully vaccinated turn to their doctor and national health experts. Overall, health information is consumed weekly or more frequently by only one in two (50 percent) respondents.
Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents say there is gap between how well they take care of their health versus how well they should be. When asked to explain the reason for this gap, people pointed to information (47 percent) and cost (50 percent) as top reasons. National health authorities (55 percent) and ‘my employer’ (53 percent) are two of the most believable sources of information on healthcare issues. More than three quarters (77 percent) of employees expect ‘my employer’ to play a meaningful role in making sure they are as healthy as possible.
“There is a clear connection between trust and public and personal health outcomes. Neither can be improved without sustained efforts across other institutions as well as those within the health ecosystem. COVID-19 has shown us that you only get strong outcomes when all the actors pull in the same direction,” said Kirsty Graham, Global Chair, Health, Edelman. “With information nearly on par with cost as a barrier to people taking good care of themselves, there is a key role for both businesses and employers to address this gap. Business must break through the information barrier - take the message and the messenger to where people are. They must build trust across the full health ecosystem and acknowledge that as employers they have a crucial role to play. We must take these lessons and use them to build resilience for the next health crisis.”
Other key findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health include:
- Trust in healthcare companies differs by:
- Income – High (71 percent); Middle (64 percent); Low (55 percent)
- Geography – Urban (66 percent); Suburban (57 percent); Rural (56 percent)
- Race/Ethnicity (in the US) – White (62 percent); Black (55 percent); Hispanic (57 percent); Asians (61 percent)
- Politics (in the US) – Democrat (70 percent); Republican (60 percent); Independent/Third Party (50 percent)
- 61 percent say they are confident in their ability to find answers about healthcare questions and make informed decisions for themselves and their family, a 10-point decline over 5 years
- 71 percent say in order to earn or keep their trust, health companies must build and maintain trust in their country’s health system
- Among those with low-income levels, achieving a higher trust level in the health ecosystem boosts vaccination rates by 14 percentage points, making it equivalent to high income earners (79 percent). The same positive effect is seen in preventive care, with low-income earners nearly as likely to seek regular checkups as high-income earners if they have higher trust in the health ecosystem
- There are several sources of trust in health that can bridge gaps in trust, with the potential to lead to better access, behaviors and outcomes:
- My doctor, scientists and pharmacists are among the most trusted voices for health information and protecting the public health
- Employers are one of the most believable sources of health information, behind only global and national health authorities