We’re often told that worrying can be harmful to one’s health. But University at Buffalo researchers say that when it comes to preventing skin cancer, a little fear is good for you.
In a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, the UB researchers found that fear and worry about skin cancer had a bigger influence on people’s use of sunscreen than information about the statistical likelihood of developing the disease.
“Most health behavior studies don’t account for the more visceral, emotional reactions that lead people to do risky behaviors, like eat junk food or ignore the protective benefits of sunscreen,” says Marc Kiviniemi, lead researcher and assistant professor of community health and health behavior.
“This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information. By not addressing emotions, we’re potentially missing a rich influence on behavior when interventions don’t address feelings.”
Kiviniemi’s study analyzed data from a nationwide study conducted by the National Cancer Institute. Nearly 1,500 randomly selected participants with no personal history of skin cancer were asked about their sunscreen use, and questioned to gauge their perceived risk and worry for getting skin cancer.
Frequency of sunscreen use varied, with 32 percent reporting ‘‘never’’ using it, and 14 percent ‘‘always’’ using it. Education was associated with increased sunscreen use and men and non-White participants were both less likely to use sunscreen.
In each case, however, worry more directly influenced people’s behavior than informational findings, and increasing degrees of worry were associated with increased sunscreen use.
“Our research looked at the interplay of emotions and facts in decision making– that is, how do cognitive and affective risks jointly work to influence behavior?” says Kiviniemi. “The nature of their interrelation as an influence on behavior has not been examined until this study.”
UB researchers say that affective risk – fear and worry about a health issue, in this case skin cancer – and cognitive risk – the informational component – are both known influences on people’s health behaviors.
However, they are often treated separately or are pitted against one another as “rational” versus “irrational” influences, says Kiviniemi.
“These findings show that clinicians might want to think more about feelings when encouraging people to use sunscreen,” says Kiviniemi. “In addition to providing educational information about risk, encouraging people to consider how they feel about cancer and how worried they are about it might inspire preventive behaviors.”
While ultimately public health professionals can use the results to design better intervention tools, researchers are still a few steps away from understanding how to shape fear so that it is beneficial, rather than paralyzing, adds Kiviniemi.
Kiviniemi will conduct further research to examine the same relationship between risk perception and behavior in other types of health behaviors, such as colonoscopy screening and condom use.
Media Contact Information
Media Relations Assistant
Marcene Robinson | Eurek Alert!
Researchers observe major hand hygiene problems in operating rooms
30.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg
Electric vehicle range in 450,000 kilometer real-world test
30.03.2015 | Technische Universität Chemnitz
In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...
The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.
As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...
When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.
The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe.
Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...
Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.
From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.03.2015 | Event News
31.03.2015 | Life Sciences
31.03.2015 | Materials Sciences
31.03.2015 | Earth Sciences