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Laypeople's Health Concerns and Health Beliefs in Regard to Risk Perception of Mobile Communication

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The consensus scientific view is that there is an absence of convincing scientific evidence for health risks of exposures to electromagnetic fields (EMF) at levels below those recommended in international guidelines. Nevertheless, some citizens are worried about EMF emitted by mobile communication and its consequences for health. The present study explored, by means of a mail survey, health concerns and the prevalence of health beliefs related to EMF in the general population. A random sample (n = 765, response rate 41%) of the German-speaking population in Switzerland was asked to assess various health beliefs. Results suggest that health concerns are widespread but lower than health concerns in regard to other hazards. About two-thirds of the respondents believed that some people suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Health beliefs items were analyzed using the Mokken scale. This scale was related to respondents' health concerns and showed that health beliefs differed in regard to sociodemographic variables. For example, analyses showed that females, younger respondents, and respondents who believed that some people are affected by EHS endorsed significantly more health beliefs than males, older respondents, and non-EHS respondents. Results indicate that it is important for policy-makers to develop a clear understanding of the possible effects of health beliefs on health concerns and risk perception. These findings may provide guidance for the further development of information materials and strategies.

Keywords: health beliefs; health concerns; mobile communication; risk communication; risk perception

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Consumer Behavior, ETH Zurich, Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: November 1, 2008


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