Health Risk Tolerance as a Key Determinant of (Un)willingness to Behavior Change: Conceptualization and Scale Development

Abstract: As Heath and O’Hair (2009) defined, crisis is when risk is manifested. The urgency and uncertainty of crisis can induce more complexity to organizations (Seeger, Sellnow, & Ulmer, 1998). Public health crisis and risk communications are tasked to communicate about risks that can harm public health and persuade the public to adopt healthier and less risky behavior (Freimuth, Linnan, & Potter, 2000). Although risk perception itself has been extensively studied, it remains unclear how individuals choose not to modify unhealthy behaviors despite their awareness of the benefits of changing such behaviors. To further unearth the psychological process of refusal to change, our study introduces and explicates the concept of risk tolerance as a key determinant of individuals’ (un)willingness to modify unhealthy behaviors. Risk tolerance, a concept originally developed in management and financial planning, is defined in our study as how much individuals tolerate not to follow the recommended healthy behavior. To refine the conceptualization and develop a scale measuring health risk tolerance, a multi-phase, multi-method research design is employed.