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Health Information Seeking versus Avoiding: How Do College Students Respond to Stress-related Information?

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Objectives: Given the prevalence of stress among young adults and its impact on overall health, it is important to understand how college students respond to stress and stress management messages and which factors influence subsequent health information engagement. Methods: In the current study, I used an experimental design to test whether the variables of risk percep tion, response efficacy, and source credibility can exert an impact on a convenient sample of undergraduate students at a large Midwestern public university in the health context of stress and stress management. Results: Both risk perception and response efficacy were positively associated with health information seeking and negatively associated with health information avoiding, but only risk perception had a strong and statistically significant influence on information engagement. I found no statistically significant interaction between risk perception and response efficacy or moderating effects of source credibility. Conclusions: This study provides empirical support for the claim that stress-related risk perception can influence young adults' information engagement significantly. Health communication strategists addressing the issue of stress among college students should consider eliciting risk perception.
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Keywords: INFORMATION AVOIDANCE; INFORMATION SEEKING; RESPONSE EFFICACY; RISK PERCEPTION; SOURCE CREDIBILITY; STRESS MANAGEMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Doctoral Student, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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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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