Report summary

Wellcome Monitor 2020: Public perception of drug-resistant infections

This report presents the results of the fifth Wellcome Monitor. It looks at findings around the British public’s perceptions of drug-resistant infections and their use of antibiotics.

What’s inside

The report is based on a survey of more than 2,600 people in England, Wales and Scotland. It gives a snapshot of:

  • people’s perception of drug-resistant infections as a threat to public health
  • how people use antibiotics and their behaviour around getting antibiotic prescriptions
  • the public’s knowledge and understanding of drug-resistant infections and antibiotics
  • the role and responsibility the public feel they have in reducing drug-resistant infections.

Who this is for

  • public health workers and strategists 
  • local governments and UK policy makers
  • researchers and engagement practitioners in the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) space
  • general public interested in drug-resistant infections in Britain.

Key findings 

1. Fewer people view drug-resistant infections as a very high risk (45%) compared to 2018 (54%). 

  • However, a large majority of people (88%) view drug-resistant infections as fairly or very high risk to public health.
  • Younger people, people in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and people with lower incomes are all less likely to view drug-resistant infections as fairly or very high risk.

2. Most people take all their antibiotics in accordance with good practice for reducing antimicrobial resistance.

  • Younger people, people struggling financially, and those less confident making decisions about their health are more likely to not take all of their antibiotics, or take them at times that were not recommended.

3. A large majority of people (81%) have heard of the term ‘drug-resistant infections’ and feel they have at least some understanding of it.  

4. Nearly half (45%) of people correctly identified what antibiotics can or cannot treat.

5. More people (49%) think the public can have a big impact on reducing drug-resistant infections than in 2018 (39%).

  • People who struggle financially, people without degrees and people in BAME groups are less likely to think that others like them can have a big impact on drug-resistant infections. 


Drug resistance threatens to undermine modern medicine in the UK and across the world, with common infections becoming untreatable and medical procedures such as surgeries or chemotherapy becoming too risky. While this study shows the British public have some awareness of the threat posed by drug-resistant infections, it is clear that much more must be done to keep it high in people's minds as an important health issue.

Tim Jinks, Head of Drug-resistant Infections, Wellcome

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For more information, contact Pri Perera at

Related reports 

This report presents the results from the fourth wave of the Wellcome Monitor, a study about public knowledge of and attitudes towards science and health research.