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BACKGROUND: To reduce inappropriate antibiotic use, public health campaigns often provide fear-based information about antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Meta-analyses have found that fear-based campaigns in other contexts are likely to be ineffective unless respondents feel confident they can carry out the recommended behaviour ('self-efficacy'). This study aimed to test the likely impact of fear-based messages, with and without empowering self-efficacy elements, on patient consultations/antibiotic requests for influenza-like illnesses, using a randomised design. METHODS: We hypothesised that fear-based messages containing empowering information about self-management without antibiotics would be more effective than fear alone, particularly in a pre-specified subgroup with low AMR awareness. Four thousand respondents from an online panel, representative of UK adults, were randomised to receive three different messages about antibiotic use and AMR, designed to induce fear about AMR to varying degrees. Two messages (one 'strong-fear', one 'mild-fear') also contained empowering information regarding influenza-like symptoms being easily self-managed without antibiotics. The main outcome measures were self-reported effect of information on likelihood of visiting a doctor and requesting antibiotics, for influenza-like illness, analysed separately according to whether or not the AMR information was 'very/somewhat new' to respondents, pre-specified based on a previous (non-randomised) survey. RESULTS: The 'fear-only' message was 'very/somewhat new' to 285/1000 (28.5%) respondents, 'mild-fear-plus-empowerment' to 336/1500 (22.4%), and 'strong-fear-plus-empowerment' to 388/1500 (25.9%) (p = 0.002). Of those for whom the respective information was 'very/somewhat new', only those given the 'strong-fear-plus-empowerment' message said they would be less likely to request antibiotics if they visited a doctor for an influenza-like illness (p 

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Fear messages about antimicrobial resistance, Inappropriate antibiotic use, Public campaigns, Adult, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Fear, Female, Humans, Male, Primary Health Care, Public Health Informatics, Surveys and Questionnaires