The purpose of this PhD project is to investigate the potential role of life stress in determining people’s health risk perception, health risk acceptance, and health risk behaviour.
In health risk perception research, life stress has so far figured mainly in terms of distress experienced as a consequence of health risk perception. Whether life stress is also relevant as an antecedent to health risk perception and other health risk reactions, and how such an effect would work, remains unknown. This knowledge gap certainly needs closure, since identifying the relevance and role of life stress in the context of health risk perception has consequences for theory building as well as public health practice and health risk communication.
Main research question(s)
The project aims to identify:
direct effects of life stress (perceived psychological stress, current life events, adverse events in childhood) on risk perception, as well as indirect effects of life stress, mediated via risk perception, on risk acceptance and actual risk behaviour;
moderator effects of life stress on the relationship between health risk communication messages and risk reactions (risk perception, risk acceptance, and risk behaviour).
The project is divided into two experimental sub-studies according to the type of risk being investigated: risk of developing type 2-diabetes (study 1) and risk of terrorism in Western Europe (study 2). Study 1 is longitudinal and the intervention involves reading positively versus negatively framed risk information about type 2-diabetes. Study 2 is cross-sectional and the intervention involves viewing terrorism versus non-terrorism media coverage. Both studies will be conducted with university students screened for prior naturally occurring stress levels.
Anja Leppin, SDU, IST, Unit for Health Promotion Research
Jesper Bo Nielsen, SDU, IST, Research Unit of General Practice
1 August 2015 – 31 July 2018