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Revista Portuguesa de Saúde Pública

versão impressa ISSN 0870-9025


CAMILO, Cristina  e  LIMA, Maria Luísa. In what do we think when we think about diseases: psychometric study of health risks. Rev. Port. Sau. Pub. [online]. 2010, vol.28, n.2, pp.140-154. ISSN 0870-9025.

Introduction: A substantial body of research using a psychometric approach reveals that most dreads are characterized by their position on the dimensions "dread risk" and "unknown risk". This paper aims to find out if people characterize health risks recurring to the same dimensions and how different health threats are represented within this dimensional structure. Material and methods: A questionnaire assesses the representation of 15 health risks (depression, flu, cold, infection by Ebola virus, alcoholism, hepatitis, drugs abuse, diabetes, birds flu, injuries resulting from car crashes, anorexia, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and AIDS). Each risk is rated in the following dimensions: uncontrollable, dread, consequences fatal, involuntary, affects self, unknown to the exposed, new and effect delayed. One hundred ninety one participants come from two non-health organizations, one health organization and one university. Results: The first factor analysis produces 3 factors out of the eight items: the original factors plus a factor named "controllable risk". A second factor analysis excluding the less known risks (Ebola and birds flu) reproduces the original dimensions "dread risk" and "unknown risk". The most dreadful and unknown risk is cancer and cold is the less dreadful and unknown risk. Conclusions: One concludes that health risk representation lies on the same evaluative dimensions as other dreads (dreadful risk and unknown risk). However the perception of control is an important dimension when evaluating unknown risks. In general the results reveal variations in health risk representation with important implications for risk communication and risk management.

Palavras-chave : Illness representation; Health risks; Psychometric paradigm.

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