Science Café Leiden   |   14 Apr. 2023

How the Placebo Effect Can Contribute to Better Care

We do not know what the active ingredients are for many regular treatments. For example, the effect of a placebo pill can be as great as, for example, a real antidepressant or a painkiller. The effects of many healthcare treatments are therefore partly explained by factors other than the drug or treatment itself. Examples of these factors are the confidence that the practitioner exudes, the expectations that someone has regarding treatment and previous experiences that someone has with treatments. All these factors can influence treatment outcomes. However, these findings are hardly taken into account in regular healthcare. While using this knowledge we could optimize treatments and at the same time reduce possible adverse consequences of treatments (such as risks of side effects).

People are also increasingly asking for active participation in decisions about their treatments and want to contribute as much as possible to this themselves. This is also hardly used at the moment, while healthcare costs and demand for care are increasing. In this lecture, the role of the aforementioned factors for health and disease, such as those that play a role in the placebo effect, will be discussed. Particular attention will also be paid to the possibility of directly influencing physical processes, such as the immune system, through psychological processes. An insight is also given into which innovative treatments are currently being developed for this. Ultimately, this knowledge can be translated into practical applications for regular healthcare.

Speaker: Andrea Evers. She is professor of health psychology and scientific director of the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University. She is also a Medical Delta professor of Healthy Society at Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University in Rotterdam. As a clinical psychologist, she translates insights from fundamental research into practical applications. She has received several prestigious research grants, including the Stevin Prize.