New diabetes treatments are often in the news. The media plays a big role in shaping messages about diabetes management. For example, during doctor appointments, people with diabetes often ask about topics that they have seen in the news. This includes news from print, online, and social media. For many, it is hard to know which information is accurate and truthful.
Exaggerated and false information harms health
When news media spreads false or inaccurate information about diabetes, people’s perceptions and attitudes are impacted, and this can affect their behavior. Often, exaggerated language is used to capture people’s interest. For example, many news sources will describe ‘breakthroughs’ or ‘miracle’ therapies without enough data to support these claims. Recently, researchers reviewed the language used in news articles to find out how often these exaggerated terms are used. They focused on words such as “breakthrough,” “cure,” “game-changer,” “groundbreaking,” “life-changing,” “life-saving,” and “miracle.”
In 179 articles about diabetes, more than a third included this kind of exaggerated language (also called “superlatives”). Almost 75% of the articles were written by journalists whose claims were not supported by medical data. Other research shows that exaggerated language often comes from press releases from universities. They use inflated language to tell the public about their exciting developments and get funding for future research. This is concerning because it becomes advertising, which may lead to increased drug prices, overuse of medication, and inappropriate prescribing of medication by doctors. It is the responsibility of researchers and medical professionals to provide the public with accurate information. It is important to correct any misperceptions about the potential benefits or risks of therapies emphasized in news articles.
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