Lifestyle and chronic illness: Variables affecting risk perception.

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name





Psychology, Behavioral.




Despite efforts to inform the public of prominent health hazards, a substantial proportion of the Canadian population still engages in unhealthy behaviours. Theories of health behaviour propose that perceived vulnerability to negative health outcomes influences the likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviours. However, research has demonstrated that people can be optimistic when making risk predictions for negative health outcomes, and perceive that bad things are less likely to happen to them. This phenomenon has been called unrealistic optimism (Weinstein, 1980), and has been demonstrated for a wide variety of events with respect to comparative risk judgments. A major goal of the present research was to develop a path model that would explain determinants of risk perception. Incorporating new variables above and beyond those previously studied was an important focus in building on the foundation of results from previous research. Male and female undergraduates completed questionnaires asking for comparative risk judgments for getting chronic diseases in the future, their perception of control for preventing these conditions, as well as their experience with them. In addition, participants completed measures of lifestyle, impulsivity, health value, and time perspective. Consistent with hypotheses, a significant optimistic bias was demonstrated for five of seven chronic conditions. Further, three alternative path models were specified; results showed that one offered a good fit in the present sample. Further, most paths were significant in the hypothesized direction. The final path model demonstrated that control, experience, health behaviours, and health value were all directly and significantly linked to risk perception in the hypothesized directions whereas time perspective and impulsivity variables affected health behaviours and health value.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis2005 .P535. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 67-07, Section: B, page: 4093. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 2005.