Roles of Illness Attributions and Cultural Views of Cancer in Determining Participation in Cancer-Smart Lifestyle among Chinese and Western Youth in Australia

  • Wei, Celine (Centre for Applied Psychology, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra) ;
  • Wilson, Carlene (Cancer Council SA and Flinders Centre for Cancer Prevention and Control, School of Medicine, Flinders University) ;
  • Knott, Vikki (Centre for Applied Psychology, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra)
  • Published : 2013.05.30


Background: The study investigated the influence of culturally-based health beliefs on engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviour. Specifically, the study compared levels of engagement between Western and Chinese youth in Australia and assessed the extent to which culture-specific attributions about the causes of illness, and health beliefs, predict engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviour. Materials and Methods: Ninety-four Western and 95 Chinese (N=189; Mean Age=20.8 years, SD=3 years) young adults completed an online questionnaire. Predictor variables were cultural health beliefs measured by the Chinese Cultural Views on Health and Illness scale (CCVH, Liang et al., 2008), and illness attributions beliefs measured by the Cause of Illness Questionnaire (CIQ, Armstrong and Swartzman, 1999). Outcomes variables were levels of engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviour. Results: Results indicated that Chinese participants have a significantly lower exercising rate and healthy dietary habits compared to the Western sample. Moreover, Chinese participants were found to believe more strongly than Westerners that cancer was associated with factors measured by the Traditional-Chinese-Model (TCM). Finally, the observed relationship between cultural health beliefs and physical inactivity was mediated by attributions of illness, in particular to the supernatural subscale, with the Sobel Test showing a significant mediation (z=-2.63, p=0.004). Conclusions: Mainstream approaches to encourage healthy lifestyles are unlikely to be effective when educating Chinese youth. Instead, health promotion programs should attempt to address the illness attribution beliefs and educate Chinese youth about the role of diet and exercise in prevention of diseases such as cancer.


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