Behavioral Research

Table of Contents
1 Description & Theoretical Background
2 Use in Health Behavior Theories
3 Measures and Measurement

Similar Constructs



6 Measures Appendix
7 Published Examples

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Other Constructs



Dispositional Optimism




Illness Representations

  Implementation Intentions
  Intention, Expectation, and Willingness
  Normative Beliefs
  Optimistic Bias
  Perceived Benefits
  Perceived Control
  Perceived Severity
  Perceived Vulnerability
  Self-Reported Behavior
  Social Influence
  Social Support

Kevin D. McCaul and Paul W. Goetz

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Similar Constructs

Risk. Worry about a health event is likely to be related to one's appraisal of risk concerning that event. Indeed, Slovic (1987) has proposed that the concept of risk has many dimensions, one of which is represented by affective terms such as dread (also see Weinstein, 2003). However, empirically, risk and worry are not highly related-data from many different health areas results in a relationship of around r = .30 (McCaul & Mullens, 2003). Moreover, each variable may independently contribute to health behaviors (Moser, McCaul, Peters, Nelson, & Marcus, 2005). In short, risk and worry are similar but by no means identical.

Fear. Most theorists would agree that worry and fear are different constructs with the latter term reserved for brief but intense emotional episodes (Russell & Barrett, 1999). Worry, in contrast, is typically carried out over time, and the affect attached to worry is much more modest than for fear. A person could worry about cancer for several consecutive minutes many times during a single day; it is unlikely that one would experience full-blown fear that frequently. That said, fear and worry do share some similar features. In particular, persons who are afraid feel that they do not have control over a situation, and they are uncertain about how the situation is likely to turn out (Lerner & Keltner, 2000). Similar feelings characterize worried individuals (Borkovec et al., 1983).

Other feelings. Finally, it is worth noting that worry is one of many affective responses to health outcomes that could be assessed. As one example, some decision scientists have studied the construct of regret, feelings that one might have either after selecting one decision alternative vs. another or while anticipating making a decision. Some data suggest that regret may be a more powerful predictor of self-protective behavior (getting a flu immunization) than worry (see Chapman & Coups, in press; Weinstein et al., 2005). The overall point, however, is that feelings matter and deserve attention to better understand self-protective health behaviors.

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DCCPSNational Cancer Institute Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

Health Behavior Constructs: Theory, Measurement, & Research  You can Quit smoking Now!