Heart attack risk perception biases among hypertension patients: the role of educational level and worry.

Psychology Department, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA.
Psychology & Health (Impact Factor: 1.95). 12/2011; 27(6):737-51. DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2011.626856
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Risk biases such as comparative optimism (thinking one is better off than similar others) and risk inaccuracy (misestimating one's risk compared to one's calculated risk) for health outcomes are common. Little research has investigated racial or socioeconomic differences in these risk biases. Results from a survey of individuals with poorly controlled hypertension (N=813) indicated that participants showed (1) comparative optimism for heart attack risk by underestimating their heart attack risk compared to similar others, and (2) risk inaccuracy by overestimating their heart attack risk compared to their calculated heart attack risk. More highly educated participants were more comparatively optimistic because they rated their personal risk as lower; education was not related to risk inaccuracy. Neither race nor the federal poverty level was related to risk biases. Worry partially mediated the relationship between education and personal risk. Results are discussed as they relate to the existing literature on risk perception.