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Open Access Research article

The relationship between trust in mass media and the healthcare system and individual health: evidence from the AsiaBarometer Survey

Yasuharu Tokuda1*, Seiji Fujii2, Masamine Jimba3 and Takashi Inoguchi2

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Clinical Epidemiology, St. Luke's Life Science Institute, St. Luke's International Hospital, 9-1 Akashi-cho, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-8560, Japan

2 Graduate School of Political Science, Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan

3 Department of International Community Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

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BMC Medicine 2009, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-4

Published: 22 January 2009

Abstract

Background

Vertical and horizontal trust, as dimensions of social capital, may be important determinants of health. As mass media campaigns have been used extensively to promote healthy lifestyles and convey health-related information, high levels of individual trust in the media may facilitate the success of such campaigns and, hence, have a positive influence on health. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between trust levels in mass media, an aspect of vertical trust, and health.

Methods

Based on cross-sectional data of the general population from the AsiaBarometer Survey (2003–2006), we analyzed the relationship between self-rated health and trust in mass media, using a multilevel logistic model, adjusted for age, gender, marital status, income, education, occupation, horizontal trust, and trust in the healthcare system.

Results

In a total of 39082 participants (mean age 38; 49% male), 26808 (69%) were classified as in good health. By the levels of trust in mass media, there were 6399 (16%) who reported that they trust a lot, 16327 (42%) reporting trust to a degree, 9838 (25%) who do not really trust, 3307 (9%) who do not trust at all, and 191 (0.5%) who have not thought about it. In the multilevel model, trust in mass media was associated with good health (do not trust at all as the base group): the odds ratios (OR) of 1.16 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.05–1.27) for do not really trust; OR of 1.35 (95% CI = 1.23–1.49) for trust to a degree, and 1.57 (95% CI = 1.36–1.81) for trust a lot. Horizontal trust and trust in the healthcare system were also associated with health.

Conclusion

Vertical trust in mass media is associated with better health in Asian people. Since mass media is likely an important arena for public health, media trust should be enhanced to make people healthier.