The Government has just put on the table the first plan against the pseudosciences of history and a macro-study reinforces the need to put it into action. One in five Spaniards has used products and techniques to take care of their health, such as homeopathy, which lack demonstrated utility against diseases or illnesses. And what is worse, 5.2% admit that they have replaced a medical treatment with one of these therapies. Extrapolated to the population over 16 years of age, that means that two million Spaniards have changed a medicine or medical procedure for a product that does not provide any benefit to their health. In mild conditions, this decision may cause minor ills, but the health authorities are aware that there are cases in which this choice implies put patients' health and lives at serious risk. In addition, 14.4% (5.7 million) say they have treated both medical therapies and alternatives at the same time.
The Minister of Science, Pedro Duque, focused his speech today, presenting the data of the survey on the Social Perception of Science, which takes place every two years, together with the general director of Fecyt, Paloma Domingo: "If you multiply, a couple of millions, that's the core of the health system's concern. " He added: "We have to make sure that people do not make this decision, which explains why we have to act as soon as possible on the subject of health." Duque said that for the Government it is important to promote critical and rational thinking, given the "high level of confusion" among the population, and in that sense reiterated the announcement of an information campaign to show the population what is a therapy that works And what not, and what are the risks of this decision? "It is clear that he is late, for these poor people are late," the minister said, referring to the victims of the use of pseudotherapies.
"It's not about influencing people's beliefs," Duque said. "It is about informing with respect to the beliefs of each one, because yes I think it may have an effect," the minister said about the campaign to deal with techniques and products that "are clearly incorrect." The director of Fecyt pointed out other "worrisome" issues, such as that one in five people do not read the medication leaflets, and pointed out that there is a problem with false news on the internet. In addition, Duque insisted that the evaluation of where the evidence is to be updated, to prohibit the publicity of those pseudotherapies that have not proven their ability.
"We have to make sure that people do not make this decision, which explains why we have to take action as soon as possible on the subject of health," Minister Duque said.
The survey conducted last summer with a large sample of 5,200 Spaniards, indicate that confusion remains about the usefulness of the so-called alternative therapies. Half of Spaniards still mistakenly think that homeopathy is good for something. 25.4% of the sample relies on homeopathy quite or very much, a percentage that reaches half of the population (49.5%) if the group that relies on this pseudoscience is added (24.1%), a data very similar to 52.7% of the last survey, performed in 2016. Percentages are higher for acupuncture: 32.8% trust a lot or a lot, 25.9% something. In addition, 20.6% of Spaniards trust in Reiki something (14.3%), quite or very much (16.3%).
At the other extreme, only 3.3% of Spaniards believe that childhood vaccines are little or nothing reliable. In this regard, there is 6.4% of the sample that believes that the risks of childhood vaccines outweigh their benefits, compared to 89.2% who think otherwise. The percentages of people who think that the risks are greater increases among the respondents with lower educational level. "The less educated people are more wrong in the answers about science, that does not mean that they are going to stop vaccinating for that, which is a decision that depends on many other factors," explains Lobera. In general, studies usually indicate thatMilitant suspicion against vaccination is concentrated in more educated sectors.
The confusion of the population with pseudotherapies is also manifested when it is observed that 21.6% of Spaniards consider that homeopathy has enough or much scientific character (and somewhat 21.9%). Also 23.3% believe enough or a lot in the scientific character of acupuncture, a millenarian practice based on the flow of vital energy (Qi), a concept without scientific proof of its existence.
Spaniards are still among the Europeans who are most suspicious of nuclear energy and do not trust in the 'fracking' or the cultivation of genetically modified plants
"The problem is small, but it is a problem, it is not super-extended, but there are people who die", summarizes Josep Lobera, scientific director of the study (which reaches its ninth edition), about that 5.2% of Spaniards that it replaces treatments with pseudoscientific practices. This data, on substitution of treatments, is a new question in the survey, but in general the results on pseudosciences have not changed just since the previous one. "The field work was done a few months ago and since then there has been a lot of talk about this, if we did the survey next year the data would move a little more," says Lobera. In all cases, women are more prone to the use of pseudotherapies, which would be explained, among other reasons, by the greater interest and concern shown by health and care, according to Lobera. One in four women has used alternative therapies. Women show less spontaneous interest in science, 13.9% compared to 18.9% of men.
The survey also asks about the risks and benefits associated with technologies such as nuclear energy, wind turbines or the cultivation of genetically modified plants. Spaniards remain among the Europeans who show the greatest distrust of nuclear power (67.4% see a lot or a lot of risk) and do not trust the fracking (40.5%) or the cultivation of genetically modified plants (46.3%). The latter the same percentage as those who think that experimenting with animals has a lot or a lot of risk, but in that case more people believe that it has many or a lot of benefits (53.7%). Wind turbines are the technology that receives the most support, since the balance between those who highlight their benefits (76.7%) and their risks (12.9%) is overwhelming in favor of the former.
In addition, for the first time he has asked about robotization and artificial intelligence. There are more Spaniards who think that the robotization of work has many or quite a few risks (45.9%) than those who think that it has many or a lot of benefits (40.3%). The opposite happens with the intelligence of the machines, which would be a risk for 38.4% and a benefit for 42.9%.