INTRODUCTIONSmith (1990) said, "In the past, good health meant the absence of disease." Today, the definition of health is high-level wellness that goes beyond the absence of disease toward one’s maximum health potential which includes mind, body, and spirit. High-level wellness is the integration of five health components which are: emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and mental.
Education, changing behaviors by adding desirable health habits and/or eliminating unhealthy habits, maintaining close interpersonal relationships, controlling stress, and good safety practices play important roles in health consciousness. Dintiman, Davis, Pennington, and Stone (1989) suggest that combined use of these elements can lead to high-level wellness.
The Webster’s College dictionary (1991) defines consciousness as concern, interest or acute awareness. By combining the definition of health and the definition of consciousness, health consciousness could then be defined as one’s acute awareness, interest, or concern about achieving and/or maintaining high-level wellness.
A 22-item paper-and-pencil scale was constructed to measure the level of individuals’ health consciousness. After initial completion of the scale by 30 participants, SPSS item-total analysis was used to identify and remove seven weak items. . The result was the attached 15-item paper and pencil scale (see Appendix A). A coefficient alpha of .85 provided strong evidence of the internal consistency of this scale.
Several previous studies have shown significant differences in individuals’ health related behaviors based on age and gender (Gottlieb, Lloyd, & Bernstein, 1987, Kandrack, Grant, & Segall, 1991, Leigh & Fries, 1993, Ungemack, 1994). Gottlieb (1987) suggested that health behaviors associated with sex and age differences should be looked for in future research.
The purpose of this study is to assess differences in health behaviors related to age and gender using the previously mentioned newly developed health consciousness scale.
The sample for this study consists of 95 participants of various ages, occupations, income and education levels. 61 of the participants were women and 34 were men. Data were collected at a variety of places including a fire station, a bowling alley, a college, and two indoor malls.
Differences in health behaviors based on age and gender were assessed using the newly developed paper and pencil health consciousness scale (See Appendix A). There are 15 statements relating to health behaviors.
SPSS statistical computer software was used for analysis of the data.
Data were collected by myself (an experimental psychology student) and three volunteers. We each had a check-off sheet to try to ensure that the sample contained a variety of ages, occupations, income and education levels, and an acceptable gender ratio. We gave each participant one health consciousness scale to complete.
The instructions on the scale were to read each statement and circle the appropriate response for each item. Participants rated each statement on a four point frequency scale; 4 = Always, 3 = Most of the time, 2 = Sometimes, and 1 = Never.
Two things were done to prepare the data for statistical analysis. First, the age on each survey was categorized into one of three groups and given a numerical value: Age group 1 = Up to 25, Age group 2 = 26-45, Age group 3 = 46 and up. Second, the gender of the person completing the survey was given a numerical value of 1 if female and 2 if male.
One 3 x 2 between subjects ANOVA was used to look at the effects of age, gender, and a combination of gender and age on how survey questions were answered. A .05 significance level was used to determine whether or not the two variables or a combination of the two variables had a significant effect on survey answers.
A significant main effect was found with age (F(2,89)=3.814, p<.05). The significant difference in how survey questions were answered was between the 26-45 age group and the 46 and up age group. There were no significant differences found between how questions were answered on the survey by the up to 14 age group and the 46 and up age group. There was also no significant difference found between how survey questions were answered in the up to 14 age group and the 26-45 age group.
No significant main effect was found for gender (F(1,89)=1.492, p>.05). This was evidence that how questions on the survey were answered overall were not significantly different when answered by men than when answered by women.
No significant interaction effect was found between age and gender (F(2,89)=.44, p>.05). This was evidence that there was no significant difference on how survey questions were answered when age and gender were paired together to make the comparison.
This study provided evidence to support earlier research that found age to be a factor in the level of an individuals’ health consciousness. The non-significant difference between the youngest and oldest age groups provides conflicting evidence with earlier research that showed evidence of higher levels of health consciousness as age progresses.
The finding of no overall significant differences between genders also conflicts with earlier research. Our inability to obtain a 50/50 ratio on the gender of the participants completing surveys may have been a factor in this result. Further analysis comparing answers to questions individually by gender is necessary to find out if there may be significant differences in certain areas of health related behaviors.
Sample size and the variety of the participants may have been a factor in the results of this study. It may be necessary to obtain a larger sample that includes a larger variety of participants for effects to be found.
In the future, when a larger sample with a larger variety of participants is obtained, further analyses will be done to see if education, and/or income, and/or occupation have an effect on an individuals’ level of health consciousness.
Dintiman, G., Davis, R., Pennington, J., & Stone, S. (1989). Discovering lifetime fitness. Minnesota: West Publishing Company
Gottlieb, N.H., Lloyd, L.E., & Bernstein, V.R. (1987). Sex and age differences in lifestyle risk: Implications for health promotion programming. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3, 192-199.
Kandrack, M., Grant, K.R., & Segall, A. (1991). Gender differences in healt hrelated behaviour: Some unanswered questions. Social Science and Medicine, 32, 579-589.
Smith, S. (1990). Personal health choices. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Ungemack, J.A. (1994). Patterns of personal health practice: Men and women in the United States. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 10, 38-44.
Webster’s College Dictionary (1991). New York: Random House, Inc.
Please read each statement and circle the appropriate response for each item.
SCALE: 4 = Always 3 = Most of the time 2 = Sometimes 1 = Never
1. I watch and listen for the latest information about health issues. 4 3 2 1
2. I eat the recommended daily amounts of the food groups in the food pyramid. 4 3 2 1
3. I limit the amount of fat in my diet to one-third or less of my total daily calorie intake. 4 3 2 1
4. I limit the amount of salt in my diet. 4 3 2 1
5. I read the nutrition labels on packaged foods for nutritional content and to ensure fat and salt are at or below an acceptable level. 4 3 2 1
6. I avoid eating too much sugar. 4 3 2 1
7. I avoid using tobacco products. 4 3 2 1
8. I smoke only low-tar and -nicotine cigarettes. (If you don`t smoke, give yourself a 4 on this item). 4 3 2 1
9. I avoid smoking in bed. (If you don`t smoke, give yourself a 4 on this item). 4 3 2 1
10. I maintain a weight that is in proportion to my height, age, and bone structure. 4 3 2 1
11. I do some type of aerobic exercise for 15 to 30 minutes at least three times a week (power walking, running, bicycling, swimming for example). 4 3 2 1
12. I have close friends, relatives, or others that I can talk to about personal matters. 4 3 2 1
13. I recognize, and prepare for, events or situations likely to be stressful for me. 4 3 2 1
14. I wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle. 4 3 2 1
15. I am careful when using potentially dangerous products or substances (household cleaners, poisons,
electrical devices). 4 3 2 1
Please give your age, gender, occupation, and years of education: