Previous research has found that the misinformation effect is more pronounced in older adults as opposed to those in younger age groups (Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images).


A RESEARCH project investigating how older adults respond to misinformation about infectious diseases on social media is about to begin at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

It will focus on false reports spread through WhatsApp, a messaging app used by people in over 180 countries.

The $50,000 (£39,950) study is being undertaken by Dr San­ tosh Vijaykumar from Northumbria’s Department of Psychology in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Georgia, the Health Systems Research India Initiative and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology.

Dr Vijaykumar will analyse the effects of health-related misinformation in the virtual world. He said: “My interest in WhatsApp emerges from how consistently it has been used as a catalyst to spread misinformation related to infectious diseases. This is a serious problem especially in Brazil and India, two countries which are at high risk of infectious disease outbreaks, and are also among WhatsApp’s biggest markets.”

Previous research has found that the misinformation effect is more pronounced in older adults as opposed to those in younger age groups.