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"This special section of Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being brings together four original articles (...)

Health and Well-Being

Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

© International Association of Applied Psychology

Cover image for Vol. 3 Issue 1

Current Issue:

Undermining Optimistic Denial Reactions to Domestic and Campus Emergency Warning Messages

Background: Individuals who prepare for public emergencies can mitigate the effects of an incident, but denial of personal susceptibility may reduce the likelihood of preparation. Some denial may be due to a positive self‐image that is at odds with being “at risk”. The potential for an enhanced warning message that included a positive image of a protector to circumvent this denial was tested in two studies. Methods: Optimistic denial threat orientation was measured. Then participants received either a traditional or a positive protector warning message about terrorism (Study 1; nationally representative sample of US adults; N = 587) or campus emergency preparation (Study 2; US college students; N = 179). Results: As predicted, in the enhanced image condition optimistic denial was no longer related to stronger denial reactions and lower intentions to protect oneself. In addition, Study 2 tested explanatory mediators and found that negative perceptions of and low similarity to a protector partially explained the denial of those higher in optimistic denial and why their denial was dampened in the positive image condition. Conclusions: An enhanced message including a positive image of protector may be an effective way to encourage protection for those prone to optimistic denial.

Group vs. Single Mindfulness Meditation: Exploring Avoidance, Impulsivity, and Weight Management in Two Separate Mindfulness Meditation Settings

Recent research has identified that mindfulness meditation in group settings supports people who are trying to lose weight. The present research investigated mindfulness meditation in group and individual settings, and explored the potential impact on weight loss and other factors (i.e. mindfulness, impulsivity, and avoidance) that may assist or hinder weight loss. Specifically, the hypotheses tested were that the group setting assisted dieters more than the individual setting by reducing weight, cognitive‐behavioral avoidance, and impulsivity and by increasing mindfulness. Participants (n = 170) who were trying to lose weight were randomly assigned to practice meditation for 6 weeks within a group or independently. Measurements in mindfulness, cognitive‐behavioral avoidance, impulsivity, and weight occurred twice (pre‐ and post‐intervention). Results indicated that participants in the group setting lost weight and lowered their levels of cognitive‐behavioral avoidance, while impulsivity and mindfulness remained stable. On the other hand, participants in the individual condition lost less weight, while there was an increase in cognitive‐behavioral avoidance and mindfulness scores, but a decrease in impulsivity. Seeing that benefits and limitations observed in group settings are not replicated when people meditate alone, this study concluded that mindfulness meditation in individual settings needs to be used with caution, although there are some potential benefits that could aid future weight loss research.

Conflict between Women's Physically Active and Passive Leisure Pursuits: The Role of Self‐Determination and Influences on Well‐Being

Background: Evidence in support of both physically active and passive leisure as significant contributors to well‐being has surfaced around the world. However, for physically active, working mothers, fitting leisure into an already busy schedule can be challenging. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of time resources and self‐determination for active and passive leisure on conflict between these two leisure domains and the influence of this conflict on well‐being. Methods: A total of 66 working mothers completed validated questionnaires measuring satisfaction with time and motivation at baseline followed by two weeks of computerized diary capture to evaluate leisure engagement with final measures of goal conflict and well‐being at the end of the two weeks. Results: Results indicated that dissatisfaction with time resources is associated with increased goal conflict as are non‐self‐determined motivation for physically active leisure and self‐determined motivation for passive leisure. Controlling for engagement in physically active and passive leisure, well‐being is negatively influenced by goal conflict. Conclusions: Time resources, goal conflict, and motivation are important factors to consider in efforts to increase well‐being among physically active working mothers. Further research is required to understand the influence of opposing motivational orientations on goal conflict.

A Brief Self‐Affirmation Study to Improve the Experience of Minority Patients

Background: There is evidence that Black patients may experience stereotype threat—apprehension about being negatively stereotyped—in healthcare settings, which might adversely affect their behavior in clinical encounters. Recent studies conducted outside of healthcare have shown that a brief self‐affirmation intervention, in which individuals are asked to focus on and affirm their valued characteristics and sources of personal pride, can reduce the negative effects of stereotype threat on academic performance and on interpersonal communication. Methods: This randomised controlled trial examined whether a self‐affirmation (SA) intervention would decrease the negative effects of stereotype threat (negative mood, lower state self‐esteem, greater perceptions of racial discrimination) and increase communication self‐efficacy among Black primary care patients. Self‐affirmation was induced by having patients complete a 32‐item values affirmation questionnaire. Results: Patients in the SA condition had lower levels of performance self‐esteem and social self‐esteem than patients in the control. There were no differences between the SA and the control groups on negative mood, communication self‐efficacy, and perceptions of discrimination. Conclusions: Our SA intervention lowered state self‐esteem among Black patients. Future research is needed to determine the type of SA task that is most effective for this population.

Implementation Intention and Action Planning Interventions in Health Contexts: State of the Research and Proposals for the Way Forward

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the literature on two planning intervention techniques in health behaviour research, implementation intentions and action planning, and to develop evidence‐based recommendations for effective future interventions and highlight priority areas for future research. We focused our review on four key areas: (1) definition and conceptualisation; (2) format and measurement; (3) mechanisms and processes; and (4) design issues. Overall, evidence supports the effectiveness of planning interventions in health behaviour with advantages including low cost and response burden. There is, however, considerable heterogeneity in the effects across studies and relatively few registered randomised trials that include objective behavioural measures. Optimally effective planning interventions should adopt “if–then” plans, account for salient and relevant cues, include examples of cues, be guided rather than user‐defined, and include boosters. Future studies should adopt randomised controlled designs, report study protocols, include fidelity checks and relevant comparison groups, and adopt long‐term behavioural follow‐up measures. Priority areas for future research include the identification of the moderators and mediators of planning intervention effects. Future research also needs to adopt “best practice” components of planning interventions more consistently to elucidate the mechanisms and processes involved.

Identifying Success on the Process Level Reduces Negative Effects of Prior Weight Loss on Subsequent Weight Loss During a Low‐Calorie Diet

Background: Dieters often show weight cycling, i.e. prior successful weight loss is followed by weight gain. The current study examined how goal progress during a diet (i.e. weight loss) impacts subsequent weight loss depending on whether success is identified on the process level or the outcome level of dieting. Methods: A short‐term longitudinal study examined lagged effects of weight loss and identifications of success in one week on weight loss in the subsequent week. Across 6 weeks, N = 126 overweight women reported their weekly weight and the degree to which they considered themselves as successful regarding the process of dieting (e.g. changing eating behavior) and the desired dieting outcomes (e.g. improving appearance). Results: Successful weight loss in one week negatively affected weight loss in the subsequent week. However, identifying success on the process level reduced this negative effect. Discussion: Although people might feel generally that goal progress licenses subsequent goal‐inconsistent behavior, identifying successful goal‐pursuit on the process rather than the outcome level of a goal may counteract the subsequent loss of dieting motivation.

Salutogenic Effects of the Environment: Review of Health Protective Effects of Nature and Daylight

Both nature and daylight have been found to positively influence health. These findings were, however, found in two separate research domains. This paper presents an overview of effects found for daylight and nature on health and the health‐related concepts stress, mood, and executive functioning and self‐regulation. Because of the overlap in effects found and the co‐occurrence of both phenomena, the paper points to the need to consider daylight factors when investigating effects of nature and vice versa. Furthermore, the existence of possibly shared underlying mechanisms is discussed and the need to unify the research paradigms and dependent variables used between the two research fields. Last, in view of the beneficial effects of both phenomena on health, our objective is to raise awareness amongst the general public, designers, and health practitioners to use these naturally available phenomena to their full potential.

Evidence‐Based Tailoring of Behavior‐Change Campaigns: Increasing Fluoride‐Free Water Consumption in Rural Ethiopia with Persuasion

Two hundred million people worldwide are at risk of developing dental and skeletal fluorosis due to excessive fluoride uptake from their water. Since medical treatment of the disease is difficult and mostly ineffective, preventing fluoride uptake is crucial. In the Ethiopian Rift Valley, a fluoride‐removal community filter was installed. Despite having access to a fluoride filter, the community used the filter sparingly. During a baseline assessment, 173 face‐to‐face interviews were conducted to identify psychological factors that influence fluoride‐free water consumption. Based on the results, two behavior‐change campaigns were implemented: a traditional information intervention targeting perceived vulnerability, and an evidence‐based persuasion intervention regarding perceived costs. The interventions were tailored to household characteristics. The campaigns were evaluated with a survey and analyzed in terms of their effectiveness in changing behavior and targeted psychological factors. While the intervention targeting perceived vulnerability showed no desirable effects, cost persuasion decreased the perceived costs and increased the consumption of fluoride‐free water. This showed that altering subjective perceptions can change behavior even without changing objective circumstances. Moreover, interventions are more effective if they are based on evidence and tailored to specific households.

Intrinsic Rewards, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, and Habit Strength: A Three‐Wave Study Testing the Associative‐Cybernetic Model

Background: Habit formation is thought to lead to long‐term maintenance of fruit and vegetable consumption. Habits develop through context‐dependent repetition, but additional variables such as intrinsic reward of behaviour may influence habit strength. Drawing upon the Associative‐Cybernetic Model, this exploratory study tested different pathways by which intrinsic reward may influence fruit and vegetable consumption habit strength. Methods: In a three‐wave study of fruit and vegetable intake in adults (N = 127) from the general population, intrinsic reward, intention, and self‐efficacy were assessed at baseline, fruit and vegetable consumption and intrinsic reward two weeks later, and habit strength another two weeks later. Direct, indirect, and moderation effects of intrinsic reward on habit strength were tested simultaneously in a moderated mediation model. Results: Intrinsic reward had a positive indirect effect on habit strength through its influence on the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption. Further, the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and habit was stronger where consumption was considered more intrinsically rewarding. Conclusions: Findings highlight the potential relevance of intrinsic reward to habit. We suggest that intrinsic rewards from behaviour may not only facilitate habit via behaviour frequency, but also reinforce the relationship between behavioural repetition and habit strength.

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