People with poor numerical literacy are more likely to believe Covid-19 misinformation, according to a survey conducted in five countries.
Researchers at Cambridge University said the findings suggested improving people’s analytical skills could help turn the tide against an epidemic of “fake news” surrounding the health crisis.
Five national surveys – reflecting national quotas for age and gender – were conducted this year to evaluate susceptibility to coronavirus-related misinformation and its influence on key health-related behaviours.
The study found the most consistent predictor of decreased susceptibility to misinformation about Covid-19 was numerical literacy – the ability to digest and apply quantitative information broadly.
People in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, the US and the UK took part in the study. Their numerical literacy levels were calculated on the basis of three different numeracy tests.
Participants were presented with nine statements about Covid-19, some false (for example, 5G networks may be making us more susceptible to the coronavirus) and some true (for instance, people with diabetes are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus).