Beyond Medical Risk: Investigating the Psychological Factors Underlying Women's Perceptions of Susceptibility to Breast Cancer, Heart Disease, and Osteoporosis

Mary A. Gerend, Leona S. Aiken, Stephen West, Mindy J. Erchull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

The relationships of epidemiological (objective) risk indices, perceived disease characteristics, and cognitive heuristics to women's perceived susceptibility to breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis in a community sample of 312 women ages 40-86 were examined. Epidemiological indices accounted for a small to moderate proportion of the variance in perceived susceptibility. Psychological factors (perceived similarity to women who contract the target disease and perceived disease prevalence) predicted perceived susceptibility above and beyond medical risk factors. Opposite to actual risk, age correlated negatively with perceived susceptibility to all 3 diseases. Exploratory analyses suggested that perceived similarity, perceived prevalence, and absent/exempt beliefs might mediate this relationship. Confirmatory factor analyses verified that measures of absolute and direct comparative risk assess the same underlying construct of perceived susceptibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-258
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2004

Keywords

  • Absolute risk
  • Breast cancer
  • Direct comparative risk
  • Heart disease
  • Medical risk factors
  • Objective risk
  • Older women
  • Osteoporosis
  • Perceived susceptibility
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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