Misinformation About Health: A Review of Health Communication and Misinformation Scholarship

Krishna, Arunima; Thompson, Teresa L.
American Behavioral Scientist

As more people choose to get health information online, health-related topics continue to be the target of misinformation. From targeted misinformation campaigns about the safety of tobacco, the mainstreaming and subsequent adoption of scientifically flawed research about vaccines, to the misinformation-driven stigmatization of HIV, health communication as an academic discipline has been faced with the challenge of stemming the flow of misinformation and correcting individuals’ misinformed beliefs. To that end, scholars have devoted much time and effort to understand the antecedents and consequences of health-related misinformation, as well as strategies to correct misinformation and inoculate others from misinformation. In this essay, we review research on health-related misinformation, with a special emphasis on two major journals in the field, that is, Health Communication and the Journal of Health Communication, and interrogate the nature of health-related misinformation. We close this essay with a conceptualization of misinformed yet vocal health communicators, whom we term health misliterates.