#CulturePH - GSK: 86% of adults significantly underestimate shingles risk and potential severity

Global biopharmaceutical giant GSK recently revealed updated data from its Global Misconception Survey, which involved 3,500 persons 50 and over and was conducted over 12 countries. The research showed a general lack of awareness and comprehension of the danger of shingles, which affects up to 1 in 3 people worldwide at some point in their lives. In the Philippines, the incidence of shingles is highest among individuals aged 50-59 (21%).

According to the poll results, a significant portion of people do not know they are susceptible to shingles, with 86% underestimating their risk and nearly half (49%) thinking they are unlikely to have the illness. 

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster (HZ), is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. The pain from shingles is often described as aching, burning, stabbing, or shock-like, particularly on one side of the body affecting adults 50 years old and above and immunocompromised individuals.  Following the shingles rash, a person can also experience post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long-lasting nerve pain that can last weeks or months and occasionally persist for several years. 


In reality, by the age of 50, 90% of adults already have the virus that causes shingles present in their bodies when they contracted chicken pox when they were younger, which may reactivate with advancing age. Yet, one in ten adults surveyed do not know the most common symptoms of shingles, and over a quarter (28%) believe shingles is “essentially harmless.” 

Dr. Giovell Barangan, GSK Philippines Country Medical Director, emphasized, “These results clearly show the need to strengthen our educational efforts regarding the risks and impacts of shingles. As a global advocate with and for aging populations, we are proud to contribute to this worldwide effort to increase awareness of shingles and help adults understand the risks and complications associated with this painful disease.”

To mark the recently concluded Shingles Awareness Week 2024, GSK is partnering with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) to release its Shingles Misconceptions Map Survey results. The event aims to encourage informed discussions between adults and healthcare professionals.

The survey also investigated the sources that adults rely on for health-related data. Findings indicate that a significant portion of individuals aged 50 and above frequently opt for unconventional methods to obtain health information, with 90% of those surveyed stating they would utilize online search engines such as Google. 

A review of global search data from Google across 12 months from September 2022 shows that more clarity may be needed on the disease, as evidenced by online searches. A 600% rise in searches for "stages of the shingles rash pictures" has been recorded, highlighting an increasing interest in shingles as well as underscoring an amplified prevalence of online sources providing health-related information. 


Dr. Barangan highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to bridge this educational gap about shingles, particularly emphasizing the health of adults over 50. “Shingles can be a debilitating disease that can significantly impact the quality of day-to-day life for those with it. As we commemorate the Shingles Awareness Week, we're asking people to talk to a healthcare professional about this painful condition that could affect us in our lifetime."

Regular consultation with doctors is crucial for safeguarding the older population’s well-being. Talk to your doctor today on shingles prevention and treatment or visit whatisshingles.ph to know more. 

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