Health as a value: methodological and theoretical considerations

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; Age Factors; *Attitude to Health; Child; Female; Humans; Internal-External Control; Life Style; Male; Psychological Tests; Psychometrics; Sex Factors; *Social Values; Socialization


Biostatistics | Epidemiology | Health Services Research


The concept of value placed on health is very important in several different theoretical approaches to the study of health behavior. In practice, however, health value is generally assumed to be universally high rather than being directly measured. If this assumption is incorrect, then theories that include health value have rarely been adequately tested. This paper presents a short 4-item Likert scale designed to measure the value placed on health. Norms from the utilization of this scale in five different samples are presented. Health value is found to increase with age among girls, but the increase apparently stops by late adolescence, before full adult levels of health value are achieved. Middle-aged women place a higher value on health than do middle-aged men, although no comparable sex difference appears in a sample of undergraduates. Consistent with theoretical predictions, both health locus of control beliefs and beliefs in the efficacy of certain preventive health behaviors correlate more highly with the performance of those same behaviors 5 to 9 months later among respondents who place a high value of health relative to those who do not value health so highly. However, this interaction is found only when it can be safely assumed that health is the primary value underlying the behavior. The importance of considering a variety of values in addition to health as possible motivators of preventive health behavior is stressed.

DOI of Published Version



Health Psychol. 1986;5(1):25-43. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association

PubMed ID


Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed