oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Perception of health risk among students in the Northern Province, South Africa

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1433-0237



For health promotion to be effective it is important that it be informed by the subjective perceptions of those at risk from illness. Subjective beliefs about illness are at the centre of psychological theories of illness behaviour. One hundred and twenty-two secondary school pupils and 147 undergraduate students in South Africa were asked to the estimate the risks and consequences of 40 illnesses or problems which constitute risks to health in their Province. The four problems judged to have the highest incidence were HIV/AlDS (69.5percent), Road Traffic Accidents (61.5percent), Sexually Transmitted Diseases (61.5percent) and abortion (48.5percent). Secondary school students perceived health risks as significantly higher than that of university students. Generally, students were able to identify those illnesses, which pose the greatest problems for hospital services, and which pose the greatest threats to life. However, the risks were overestimated. The major expressed health education needs were mv I AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, which reflect the highest perceived health risks in this sample. Implications of the research findings for health promotion are discussed.

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