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Conditions for health behaviour change

By Sarah Jane Wadlow

Abstract

Bibliography: leaves 75-80.The impact of an academic course in health psychology on students' health behaviour is assessed. It was contended that this course motivated students to improve their personal health behaviours, as it contained all the elements necessary for persuasion. It was hypothesised that (a) self-reported health behaviour would improve from pre- to post-course assessment, (b) any improvements would not have been maintained at the follow-up evaluation, (c) the components of the Health Belief Model (HBM) would predict the various health behaviours. The subjects were all third year psychology students at the University of Cape Town, attending an optional course in health psychology. They completed a self-report health behaviour questionnaire (Lifestyle Evaluation Questionnaire) prior to commencement of the course and again at the end of the six week course. At a follow-up, eight months after the completion of the course, (86) students who had completed both previous questions were mailed another (LEQ) questionnaire. They were also requested to complete a questionnaire (based on the HBM), assessing their beliefs about health behaviour (the Lifestyle Beliefs Questionnaire). 42 (49%) subjects returned the questionnaires. At-test of mean differences was conducted to determine if the four Lifestyle Evaluation Questionnaire (LEQ) factors - food, exercise, drugs and care - had changed significantly over time. Exercise, food and care behaviour had improved significantly from pre- to post-course assessment to follow-up (p < .05). Hypothesis one was, therefore, partially supported, and hypothesis two was not supported by the findings. A number of explanations for these findings are proposed. In short, it appears that exercising is regarded as more enjoyable and beneficial by a young population than other preventive health behaviours. The HBM components of benefits, barriers, susceptibility, motivation, cues to action, attitude, and enabling variables were regressed against the four LEQ factors to determine if these HBM components could predict the health behaviours. Benefits predicted exercise and drug use, barriers predicted exercise behaviour, and susceptibility predicted drug use. These three HBM components were found by Janz & Becker's (1984) review to be the most powerful predictors of health behaviours. Limitations of this "naturalistic" study are discussed and it is concluded that persuasive communication is necessary to motivate young, healthy adults to practise positive health behaviours

Topics: Psychology
Publisher: Department of Psychology
Year: 1992
OAI identifier: oai:open.uct.ac.za:11427/14325
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