Edited by Alistair McGuire and Joan Costa-Font
Chapter 17: Risk Research and Health-related Behaviours
Caroline Rudisill 1. INTRODUCTION The way in which individuals perceive risks matters when making choices about healthrelated behaviours such as smoking, food consumption, alcohol intake, pharmaceutical use and vaccination uptake. Understanding how individuals perceive risks informs health prevention programmes such as public health awareness campaigns as well as ways to successfully convey the risks and benefits associated with medicines and vaccines. The causal links between many health-related risks and associated behaviours have been well established. For example, the relationship between tobacco use and lung cancer was established over 50 years ago (Doll and Hill, 1950; Levin et al., 1950; Mills and Porter, 1950; Schrek et al., 1950; Wynder and Graham, 1950). Knowledge about the association between liver disease and drinking has also been well recognised (Pequignot et al., 1978; Saunders et al., 1981), as has the relationship between sun exposure and various types of skin cancer (Armstrong and Kricker, 2001; Elwood and Jopson, 1997). The same is true for the relationship between unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases, drunk driving and car accidents, as well as illicit drug use and addiction. Given the overwhelming evidence regarding many health-related behaviours, individuals’ decisions to continue pursuing such activities present concern over humans’ risk assessment abilities. Humans sometimes make choices that result in unambiguously poorer outcomes, such as over-eating that leads to a myriad of health concerns, over unambiguously better outcomes, such as healthy eating that reduces the chances of multiple conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. Individuals also might decide...
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