Keywords: beliefs, Canada, factor analysis, population health, risk regulation, risk perception, health risks, locus of control
Factor analytic investigation of Canadians' population health risk perceptions: the role of locus of control over health risks
To better understand how health risks are conceptualised by the Canadian public, exploratory and confirmatory factor analytic techniques were applied to data from a recent national telephone survey on health risk perception (N = 1503). Hazards assessed comprised an array of 30 items selected a priori by a panel of experts to represent the following five determinants of population health: the physical environment, biology, lifestyle, the social environment and healthcare. Respondents in the survey rated each hazard in terms of perceived risk to the health of Canadians. Rather than the hypothesised five-factor model, findings supported a three-factor model, with biochemical, lifestyle and social health risk perceptions emerging as key factors explaining the public's health risk perceptions. Although the observed model differed from expectations, it maintained some elements of current population health models. Further analyses revealed that biochemical, lifestyle and social health risk perceptions were differentially associated with beliefs about the locus of control over health risks. Findings are contrasted with those of a similar analysis of data from a comparable national survey conducted in Canada in 1992, and are discussed in relation to trends in discourse on health risk over the past decade.