Probability Perceptions and Preventive Health Care

Published in: Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, v. 49, no. 1, Aug. 2014, p. 43-71

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2014

by Katherine Grace Carman, Peter Kooreman

Read More

Access further information on this document at rd.springer.com

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

We study the effect of perceptions in comparison with more objective measures of risk on individuals' decisions to decline or accept risk reducing interventions such as flu shots, mammograms, and aspirin for the prevention of heart disease. In particular, we elicit individuals' subjective probabilities of risk, with and without the interventions, and compare these perceptions to individually predicted risk based on epidemiological models. Respondents, especially women, appear to be aware of some of the qualitative relationships between risk factors and probabilities. However, on average they have very poor perceptions of the absolute probability levels as reported in the epidemiological literature. Perceptions of the level of risk are less accurate if a respondent is female and has poor numeracy skills. We find that perceived probabilities significantly affect the subsequent take-up rate of flu shots, mammograms, and aspirin, even after controlling for individually predicted risk using epidemiological models.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.