Surely Australians can’t be this dumb?

Australia is known for many things, our beautiful land, our obscure tasting sandwich spreads and our awesome animals. But if we don’t change things before too soon we’ll be known for something else and it isn’t nearly as complimentary as the others.

“Australia…the dumb country”. It doesn’t sound very nice, does it? However it seems as though we’re heading that way. In 2013 the ABC aired an episode of Catalyst that investigated the use of statins for cholesterol lowering and questioned their effectiveness. The University of Sydney has been studying the use of statins and actually found that since that episode aired, there has been 14,000 less prescriptions for statins used every week.

The researchers estimate that 60,897 fewer people have filled their statin prescriptions in the eight months following the Catalyst broadcast. They also said that this could “result in between 1,522 and 2,900 preventable and potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes”.

Earlier this year wellness blogger Belle Gibson was uncovered as a fraud after leading a following of thousands of people on a journey to find health and wellbeing, even falsifying a battle with cancer in the process. Through her social media channels she supported anti-vaccination, raw milk and Gerson Therapy to treat and cure cancer. There were hundreds of thousands of people following her, believing every word she said. But why?

Why are we so ready to believe everything we hear or read online and on television? Why do we throw away science and practical advice to follow in the footsteps of someone else – surely we can’t be that dumb? Yet somehow, we are.

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In the case of statins, some doctors do believe that they’re being overprescribed. However, they’ve been proven highly valuable and are now recommended for:

  • Anyone who has cardiovascular disease inclying angina, a previous heart attack or stroke
  • Anyone with a very high level of harmful LDL cholesterol
  • Anyone with diabetes between the ages of 40 and 75 years old
  • Anyone with a greater than 7.5% chance of having a heart attack or stroke or developing other forms of cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years

Essentially, they’ve been proven incredibly effective in preventing a variety of heart conditions. So why were so many Australians so ready to turn away from science and follow something they simply heard on television?

Have we lost our ability to filter and verify information for the facts?

Perhaps we’ve changed our perceptions of “good” information and “bad” information as the digital age has progressed. We’re now so keen to find sources of information, sources of purpose and knowledge that we take anything on board.

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Studies into the way humans think about, understand and believe information have identified that we actually take an approach where we believe everything we see and read. We consume the knowledge on the basis that it is 100% factually correct. Then we question the validity later. Questioning the validity of a source takes additional time, effort and thought so we instinctively shy away from the knowledge understanding process.

So where can we go from here? If a 22 year old girl and a one hour television program can coax us into disbelieving the medical advice we’ve received from doctors and medical professionals for years, will the cycle continue?

Join the discussion today and tell us, where do you get your medical advice? Do you actually take and believe your doctors advice? Or do you look for alternative sources like what you read and what you hear? Share your thoughts in the comments below…