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The antidepressant hoax: conspiracy theories decrease health-seeking intentions
© 2020 The British Psychological Society Health-related conspiracy theories can undermine the trustworthiness of actors and institutions and may impact an individual’s intention to seek help. Across three experimental studies, we investigated the consequences of exposure to an antidepressant conspiracy theory on general intentions to seek medical and psychological help. Study 1 participants (N = 299) were randomly allocated to read one of three articles (pro-conspiracy, anti-conspiracy, control) after which they completed measures of conspiracy endorsement, trust, powerlessness, and health-seeking intentions. Results suggested that exposure to antidepressant conspiracy theories significantly reduced individual’s intention to seek help indirectly through decreased trust in health authorities, but not health-industry-related powerlessness. In two additional pre-registered studies, we found some support for these findings. While Study 2 (N = 244) found no support for a direct or indirect relationship between conspiracy exposure and health-seeking intentions, an exploratory analysis highlighted the importance of gender differences when investigating conspiracy exposure on intentions. Study 3 (N = 247) replicated Study 1 findings, highlighting that antidepressant conspiracy theories decrease health-seeking intentions indirectly through decreased trust and increased powerlessness. Mere exposure to antidepressant conspiracy theories had significant indirect consequences on general health-seeking intentions.