Knowledge And Perceived Risk Of Major Diseases KNOWLEDGE AND PERCEIVED RISK OF MAJOR DISEASES IN MIDDLE AGED AND OLDER WOMEN Hudson Valley Community College Fall Semester, 2000 General Psychology, Course 02587-588 Abstract The American Psychological Association Journal Article this paper is based on focuses on the knowledge of health related risks and behaviors of middle age and older age women, and specifically women’s “knowledge of perceived risk of major disease” (Wilcox & Stefanick, 1999). A link between lifestyle and chronic disease in old age has been established. In addition, the belief that age was a risk factor for breast and colon cancer actually decreased with increasing age among women. The population’s general knowledge of CHD risk factors has gone up in recent time. Women, African-American women specifically are still more likely to die from CHD as opposed to men.
The study used a survey which they had women age 40 and older fill out. Information requested about the women who filled out the survey was their age, marital status, education level and ethnic origins. Other variables reported in the study that were measured were the risk factors women described in the survey that were relevant to CHD, breast cancer, colon cancer and other various health problems. The survey also contained questions regarding what the women thought were the leading causes of death of women in certain age groups and gender groups. The women in the study were also questioned regarding their perceived general risk of a women developing a major disease.
The purpose of this study was to gain insight into what women know about serious diseases i.e., CHD, lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and genital organ cancer and the risk factors associated with developing these diseases. Also the researchers were attempting to determine how women see their own chances of developing a serious disease and what they know about deaths due to the above-mentioned diseases in the survey and applying their knowledge across groups of men and women and various age groups. It is well known that the fastest growing section of the population in the United States is the senior citizens. When Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, reach retirement age (some organizations allow employees 55 years old to take full retirement) which could begin next year for some and will continue to increase the older age or senior population of the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census & [USBS], 1996a). The American Psychological Association Journal Article this paper is based on focuses on the knowledge of health related risks and behaviors of middle age and older age women, and specifically women’s “knowledge of perceived risk of major disease” (Wilcox & Stefanick, 1999).
As people get older, they are more susceptible to diseases and other disabling conditions. Their very survival becomes difficult because as they age they are more likely to develop diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer of the lung, colon, breast and genital organs. Women often live longer than men do and their mortality rates are less than the rates for men. Because women are living longer they are more likely to experience chronic illness during their later years of life. Although this is true for many women, it does not have to be.
A link between lifestyle and chronic disease in old age has been established. Lifestyle factors or habits such as lack of exercise, smoking and bad or unhealthy eating habits have been closely linked to CHD (McGinnis & Foege, 1993). Instead of managing a chronic disease such as CHD or diabetes we should have more focus on preventing the diseases that impact the health and quality of life for our aging population altogether and specifically women. The prevention efforts could help increase the knowledge of individuals and this knowledge must be known or people will not change their unhealthy habits (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1999). An alarming report mentioned in the article this paper is based on “The 1992 National Health Intervention Survey Cancer Control Supplement” determined that most Americans did not know about the “major risk factors for common cancers and lacked knowledge regarding survival rates following early detection” (Breslow et.
al., 1997). For example, close to two thirds of Americans did not know that age increased one’s risk for breast and colon cancer, and more than one half believed that the chance of survival following the early detection of colon cancer was fair or poor. Furthermore, the belief that age was a risk factor for breast and colon cancer actually decreased with increasing age among women. Heart disease is the number one cause of deaths for both men and women alike (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1999). The population’s general knowledge of CHD risk factors has gone up in recent time. In this day and age more people are aware of CHD risk factors than ever before, but there are some sections of the population that are still not as informed as they should be.
These sections of the population are those individuals who tend to be “less educated” and are “ethnically diverse. (Davis, Winkleby, and Farquhar, 1995; Smith, Croft, Heath, and Cokkindes, 1996). There has, in recent years been a reduction in deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease in the United States. Women, African-American women specifically are still more likely to die from CHD as opposed to men. (American Heart Association, 1997.) Studies have been conducted on the knowledge and perceived risk factors but they have focused mostly on one specific disease and not on information relevant to women specifically. There are not a lot of studies that have been done to determine the knowledge and perceived risks women may have about their chances of developing, controlling or preventing a serious disease.
It is important that more be done to look at women’s personal knowledge of diseases and the differences among various age groups awareness of information regarding risk factors associated with serious diseases and how these women see themselves and their possible vulnerability to developing serious diseases. If more studies were done on these aspects and the focus of the study was to compare these variables, it could lead to more reliable and useful results. If a theory is tested and retested and similar results are documented then it is more reliable information to use to help women become better educated and more active in preventing serious and potentially life threatening diseases. Also these studies could be effective in establishing a relationship between these aspects, and early detection testing which would result in changing of health behaviors so that these diseases can be prevented more often. The study was based on a sample of 200 women, whose ages were between 41-95 years old and they were all from the San Francisco Bay area in California. The article mentions that an effort was made to seek out a “diverse” sample that was representative of the general population by trying to get women from all types of communities and age groups to participate in the survey.
Some of the surveys were filled out (132) by women at locations such as senior health fairs and at a health fair in a neighborhood that consisted of individuals who had limited levels of education, with different ethnic origins. Some of the women did not fill out the survey at the site where the surveys were being distributed but they took them with them. Of the 131 surveys allowed to be taken and filled out and returned, only 68 were returned. The study used a survey which they had women age 40 and older fill out. The surveys were designed so that the women’s identities would remain anonymous, because of this the women could not be contacted for the information that was not provided on some of the surveys.
Despite all of this, 96% of the information necessary to analyze the results was available. The lack of information fo …