People who don't like being told what to do by experts and hate following rules are more likely to end rejecting vaccines and use unproven alternatives to medicine, new research has found.
Researchers in the UK and Finland surveyed nearly 800 parents, and found a correlation between reactance - a negative response to having the impression your freedoms are being curtailed - and distrust of doctors.
"The vaccine recommendations given by authorities or the social pressure in society to get vaccinated may cause defiance in people who tend to react negatively when they feel that they are forced to do something or that someone is trying to persuade them," said Anna Soveri of the University of Turku, Finland.
"Defiance can lead to scepticism towards medical doctors and negative attitudes towards vaccines, or even vaccine refusal."
Protests have been held worldwide against measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic this year, including here in New Zealand, despite their effectiveness.
Health officials and scientists have urged people to wear masks, avoid crowds and practise social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and warned against lifting restrictions - such as those presently on Auckland - too early.
While nine out of 10 people surveyed said they had trust in their doctor, only 75 percent had got their kids vaccinated "without hesitation" and 7 percent had chosen to reject at least one.
"Parents with higher trait reactance had lower trust in doctors, more negative attitudes to vaccines, a higher likelihood of not accepting vaccines for their children and themselves, and a higher likelihood to use [alternative medicine] treatments that are not included in evidence-based medicine," the study, published in journal PLOS One, concluded.
Claims vaccines are behind conditions like autism have been widely debunked. The man who first claimed a link was later stripped of his licence to operate after it emerged his research was fraudulent.