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College Students' Perceived Disease Risk Versus Actual Prevalence Rates

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Objective: To compare college students' perceived disease risk with disease prevalence rates. Methods: Data were analyzed from 625 college students collected with an Internet-based survey. Paired t-tests were used to separately compare participants' perceived 10-year and lifetime disease risk for 4 diseases: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and overweight/obesity. Results: Respondents estimated their risk of developing heart disease as lower than cancer, yet rated their risk of developing heart disease as higher than diabetes and being overweight/obese. Conclusion: Incongruence between college students' perceived disease risk and disease prevalence rates calls for improved public health education.


Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA; or, Email: 2: Doctoral Student, Health Services Research, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, College Station, TX 3: Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Kinesiology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 4: Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 5: Regents Professor, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, Department of Social & Behavioral Health, College Station, TX

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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