Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
World survey reveals people trust experts but want to know more about science
The world’s biggest survey into public attitudes to health and science publishes today, revealing high overall global trust in doctors, nurses and scientists, and high confidence in vaccines.
News | 19 June 2019
Wellcome Global Monitor also shows, however, that half of the world’s population say they know little – if anything – about science. And almost one in five feel excluded from the benefits of science.
The survey asks more than 140,000 people, aged 15 and older, in over 140 countries, how they think and feel about health and science.
It is the first global survey of its kind and highlights questions that need to be answered to ensure science and health research benefits everyone equally, wherever they are in the world. It also reveals attitudes about science that are important to improving global health, including a complex picture of confidence in vaccines in high-income countries.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, which commissioned and funded the report, says: “Wellcome Global Monitor presents an unprecedented view of the relationship between science and society worldwide. No matter how great your idea, how exciting your new treatment, or how robust your science, it must be accepted by the people who stand to benefit from it. Vaccines, for example, are one of our most powerful public health tools, and we need people to have confidence in them if they are to be most effective.”
Key findings from Wellcome Global Monitor
:: Three-quarters of the world’s population trust doctors and nurses more than anyone else for health advice.
:: Globally, around eight in 10 people agree vaccines are safe, and nine in 10 people worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.
:: People living in high-income countries have the lowest confidence in vaccines.
:: In most parts of the world, higher confidence in health systems, governments and scientists is a sign of high trust in vaccines – but the picture is more complicated in Europe.
:: In almost every region of the world men are significantly more likely to say they have a good level of understanding of science compared with women.
Wellcome Global Monitor highlights
More than three-quarters of the world’s population agree that vaccines are safe and effective
:: Worldwide, 79% of people agree that vaccines are safe and 84% agree that they are effective.
:: Trust in vaccines tends to be strongly linked to trust in scientists and medical professionals; people who have strong trust in scientists overall are more trusting of vaccines, and vice versa.
:: Bangladesh and Rwanda have the strongest confidence in vaccines – with almost all people in both countries agreeing vaccines are safe, effective and important for children to have. Rwanda also has the highest trust in their healthcare system, at 97% – compared to a global average of 76%.
:: However, around a fifth of people in Europe either disagree or are unsure of whether vaccines are safe. This is despite 86% trusting doctors and nurses and 21% showing high trust in scientists.
:: The lowest confidence levels in relation to vaccines are in Western Europe where more than one in five (22%) of people disagree that vaccines are safe, and in Eastern Europe where 17% disagree that vaccines are effective.
:: France has the lowest levels of trust in vaccines globally: a third (33%) of its inhabitants disagree that vaccines are safe and a tenth (10%) disagree they are important for children to have.
Most parents say their children are vaccinated – and most adults agree they are important
:: 92% of parents worldwide say their children have received a vaccine to prevent them from getting childhood diseases.
:: 92% of adults globally, including those who do not have children, agree vaccines are important for children to have.
:: But worldwide 6% of parents say their children are unvaccinated, representing more than 188 million parents globally.
:: The countries with the highest numbers of parents claiming to not vaccinate their children are China (9%), Austria (8%) and Japan (7%).
Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines at Wellcome, says: “It is reassuring that almost all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children. However, there are pockets of lower confidence in vaccines across the world and we cannot afford to be complacent. To ensure society gets the full benefit of vaccines, we need to make sure that people have confidence in both the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and understand more about the complex reasons why this is not always the case.”