NEW YORK—Jennifer Hauser, managing director, Edelman Health and founder/director, Wellness 360, presented highlights from the Edelman Trust Barometer, the well-respected annual trust and credibility survey. In a session titled Cultivating Trust: The New Urgency in Business and Healthcare, she explained how our attitudes about trust are being shaped, and what businesses and brands can do to strengthen our trust in them.

Edelman Health’s Jennifer Hauser said, “Businesses are expected to not just sell, they are expected to solve.”

Hauser believes, “Trust forms the very basis of our relationships whether they are personal, business or health care relationships. It’s especially true in health care for companies, for brands, for providers, for physicians and for all health care professionals.”

Hauser outlined the methodology of the survey which was a global study fielded in November of 2022 in 20 countries with 32,000 respondents, averaging out to about 1,100 to 1,200 respondents per country. The survey measured people’s trust levels across four institutions—the most trusted sector was business, followed by NGOs, the government and media.

Hauser said, “The headline here for this year, is that trust is suffering.” At the beginning of the pandemic, people trusted health care very deeply but since then, “we’ve seen a real decline in trust, and that is especially true of right now in 2023. And there are really four forces that are leading to polarization.

“The first is economic optimism is collapsing around the world. The second is there is an institutional imbalance. Business is seen as the most trusted, competent and capable. While government is not. It is seen as the least trusted the least competent and the least capable of putting pressure on business to solve big societal challenges.

“Third, there’s a math class divide. People in the top quartile of income are much more likely to trust than those in the bottom quartile of income who are much less likely to trust it. There’s a big chasm in between.”

And finally, there’s a big battle for truth because media is not trusted today. Hauser said, “There is an echo chamber that is happening in social media that is making it very difficult for people to really understand what’s true. Am I receiving the right information? Is it true information? And it’s making it very difficult for people to understand how challenges can be solved.”

Here are some other highlights of the Edelman Barometer from Hauser:

• Business, and I think this is really relevant for today, is seen as the only trusted institution by far. Today’s businesses are expected to not just sell, they are expected to solve. We ask the question, “Which institution do you trust to do what’s right,” and business rose to the occasion.

• This is a trend that we have increasingly seen since the pandemic—people want to hear from scientists and from health care professionals, they want to hear about data. They would love for scientists and health care professionals to give them what we call consumerized data to help them understand the data.

• People consistently have felt that they are relying on their employer to give them the right information to help assuage any fears or concerns that they might have about economic challenges or societal issues. People are asking their CEOs and other leaders within companies to help guide them in some of their own personal decision making. Employers are increasingly the most trusted among those who are feeling polarized.

• People are increasingly making purchase decisions for products or brands based on their own beliefs and value systems. They want to purchase brands that stand for sustainability, that stand for racial justice, that are taking a stand on diversity and inclusion. Not only are they making these purchasing decisions, they’re willing to boycott brands, based on brands not standing for these really important societal issues today.