Wellcome Trust: Perceptions of the UK general public about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance

The Wellcome Trust has polled people in the UK about their beliefs and knowledge of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. ‘The aim was to get a deep understanding of how people think and feel about

antibiotics, their current understanding of the resistance issue and the language they use around this area – how they talk about it and what words they use.’

Some of the key findings are shown below. The full text is available here:


Most people think they know when they need antibiotics – they don’t need the doctor to tell them

The deciding factor is nearly always how ill they feel – it’s about severity rather than type of illness

And this means there is a strong sense of ‘validation’ connected to antibiotics – getting them is ‘proof’ you’re ill

And ‘resistance’ is either not on the radar or misunderstood – everyone assumes it’s the person that becomes resistant

And there’s a belief that ‘they’/ scientists will sort it out before it becomes a real problem

All of which means it’s really hard to make it feel relevant to the individual

When people really understand resistance and ‘get it’ it makes a difference – but it’s really difficult to grasp

The bottom line is clarity and directness. As in: “Bacteria are getting stronger. Antibiotics won’t work anymore. You could die.” The Atlantic

The authors of the above study say we should stop talking about ‘antibiotic resistance’ and instead talk about ‘antibiotic-resistant infections’.

‘There is a need for a communications campaign for the public which makes the issue feel real and relevant, so that the tide of opinion is behind taking action.’

It seems highly likely that these misperceptions apply not only in the UK but in all countries.

Best wishes, Neil

Let’s build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge – Join HIFA: www.hifa2015.org  

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