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When it comes to advice about COVID-19, New Zealanders trust their doctors and healthcare providers the most.

A new University of Otago study, published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, investigates which sources of COVID-19 advice are the most trusted by people living in New Zealand and Australia.

More than 800 participants in the Dunedin Study, at ages 48-49, were asked to indicate if they trusted COVID-19 advice from 14 different sources.

The Dunedin Study is a long-running study of human health, development and behaviour, following the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973.

Lead author Raven August, of the Department of Psychology, says New Zealanders trust their doctors and healthcare providers the most (81 per cent), followed by scientists (62 per cent), and the government (44 per cent).

This was consistent regardless of sex, socioeconomic status and education.

“The findings support the idea that perceived expertise and, to a lesser extent, personal connection, are important predictors of trust,” Mr August says.

Admired celebrities (1 per cent), social media contacts (2 per cent) and faith leaders (6 per cent) were the least trusted.

“This shows sources with greater personal connection, such as family and friends, are more trusted than sources with less personal connection.”

Co-author Dr Ashleigh Barrett-Young, Research Fellow in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Research Unit, says “while we weren’t surprised by these findings, it does suggest that next time there is a pandemic, governments should work closely with healthcare providers to share medical advice with the public”.

“It’s important they are empowered.”

Publication details

Who Australasians trusted during COVID-19: lessons from the pandemic response

Raven August, Ashleigh Barrett-Young, Hayley Guiney, Sean Hogan, Sandhya Ramrakha,

Richie Poulton.

New Zealand Medical Journal (Friday 15 December 2023 edition)

For more information please contact

Dr Ashleigh Barrett-Young
Research Fellow
Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Research Unit
University of Otago

Jessica Wilson
Adviser Media Engagement
University of Otago
Mo +64 21 279 5016

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