Document Type

Research Paper


Although at least 70% of the population experiences physical symptoms that could indicate illness at any given time, most people will not seek help for them. If a serious illness occurs, this delay in seeking help could seriously affect survival rates. While there are many barriers to seeking health care, there is evidence that both psychological factors, such as coping style, and situational variables, such as the nature of the symptoms, affect delay behavior. The present study investigated whether the practice of regular health behaviors affected participants' willingness to seek help for various medical problems.

One hundred forty nine introductory psychology students filled out a 2 part questionnaire that asked them to indicate: 1) how often they engaged in routine health behaviors (exercise, regular visits to health care resources): and 2) whether they would visit a physician promptly and follow medical advice if they suffered from a variety of illness. These included depression, back pain, strep throat, high blood pressure, allergies, and gastric ulcers.

Exploratory factor analysis indicated that the health behaviors surveyed clustered into four factors that were named: 1) dietary; 2) dental health: 3) substance used; and 4) health care utilization. Regression analyses indicated that factor #4 predicted delay behavior, but only for strep throat, high blood pressure, and back pain. No factor predicted compliance with treatment.

Results are consistent with a cognitive social theory model which would predict that complex behaviors indicative of self-regulation, such as visiting health care professionals, depend not only on the person suffering from symptoms, but also on the nature of the specific symptoms presented and the behavior expected (delay behavior vs. compliance with treatment).

Publication Date


Journal Title

Conference Proceedings: Undergraduate Social Science Research Conference





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©2000 by the University of Northern Iowa



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University of Northern Iowa


Cedar Falls, IA