How and why young adults do and do not search for health information: Cognitive and affective factors

Jessica Gall Myrick, Jessica Fitts Willoughby, Roshni Susana Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: The goal of this study was to take an in-depth look at why college students do (or do not) seek health information, and how they seek information when they do. Design: Qualitative content analysis of responses to an open-ended prompt embedded in a survey about health information seeking behaviours. Setting: Nearly 700 (N=697) college students at a public university in the Southeastern USA responded to an open-ended prompt to discuss health information seeking. Method: Two coders used constant-comparative method to identify themes within the data set. Results: Students in the sample were motivated to seek health information by personal relevance, emotions, identity and media coverage. When they did seek such information, they relied heavily on the Internet. Many respondents reported not seeking health information due to perceptions of low personal risk, third person perceptions that they knew more than others and/or a fatalistic view of their future health. Conclusion: College students seek health information largely based on perceptions of relevance. Health professionals wanting to motivate this population to educate themselves about health issues may wish to focus on making relevance salient as well as understanding both cognitive and affective motivations to seek or avoid seeking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-219
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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