Social Support and Family Status as Influences on Perceptions of Health Risks and Information-Seeking Behavior: A Case of New York State Teachers
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Numerous studies have indicated the importance of social support to health; those who are less socially integrated are psychologically and physically less healthy, and have higher mortality rates. A primary social support system is the family, which may be further characterized by the marital relationship and the parental relationship. This study examines one mechanism by which the influence family status, social networks and social integration may alter the perception of risks and information-seeking behaviors. If individuals are more sensitive to possible health risks as a result of social linkages, they may follow that increased concern with information seeking, and eventually risk protective behaviors. In recent years, a number of national and international research projects have documented the increased incidence of breast cancer among teachers (1.5 times higher). In response, Cornell University and the National Education Association conducted a regional study of New York State teachers and educational support professionals to investigate their knowledge and perceptions of breast cancer risk factors (N=1114). The study found mixed support for the hypothesis that family status, social networks and social integration influence risk perceptions and information-seeking behaviors. Most prominently, however, is that communication about health issues among members within a social network, community participation and general participation activities are significant predictors of increased risk perception, health concerns in the school and the community, and health information-seeking behaviors. These findings suggest that there is a need to build into breast cancer risk communication efforts in understanding an individual?s perceptions and information-seeking behaviors.
breast cancer; risk perception; information-seeking; social networks; social integration
dissertation or thesis