Attending to health risk information: is denial always maladaptive?

Pedruzzi, R., Quirk, F., and Swinbourne, A. (2011) Attending to health risk information: is denial always maladaptive? In: Combined Abstracts of 2011 Australia Psychology Annual Conference. p. 232. From: 46th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society, 4-8 October 2011, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

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It has been widely reported that individuals high in optimism tend to have better health outcomes than individuals who are less optimistic. One explanation for this finding is that optimism is adaptive in confronting threats to health as such an outlook facilitates the processing of information about risks to well being. This processing allows effective planning of behavioural responses which in turn decreases the risk and alleviates anxiety. However, Pedruzzi & Swinbourne have reported opposite effects, whereby optimism is associated with greater levels of denial or disengagement with risk information. One explanation for this contradiction is that in past health research the risk information presented tends to be concerned with modifiable risk factors. Thus optimists may attend to such information as it is useful for planning coping behaviours and eventually alleviating anxiety. The risk information in Pedruzzi & Swinbourne described factors that were largely out of the participants’ control. Thus the best anxiety reduction strategy would be to ignore the information as there is no appropriate course of action that would modify the risk. It may well be that optimists are more flexible in their selection of coping strategies than individuals lower on optimism and therefore are more likely to switch strategy depending upon the nature of the risk. The aim of the current study is to further explore this inconsistency in findings. It is hypothesised that participants high on optimism will have greatest attention and recall of risk information only when the health risk is potentially controllable. This effect will be void when the health risk is not controllable. Specifically, optimists will be more likely to employ a strategy such as denial when they perceive the outcome of the situation cannot be controlled than when the risk is perceived as controllable. The results will be discussed in light of current theories of best practice population health promotion and intervention.

Item ID: 24865
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
ISBN: 978-0-909881-43-6
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2013 05:45
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology @ 70%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111712 Health Promotion @ 30%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 100%
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