Men less likely to link personal behaviour with chronic disease prevention, according to U of A study

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The link between individual actions and chronic diseases such as cancer is going undetected by a lot of men, says a University of Alberta post-doctoral researcher.

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Kimberley Curtin said research shows there is a link between individual behaviours, such as physical activity and alcohol consumption, and chronic disease and prevention. She led a U of A study showing men are less likely to be aware of the connection than women.

Curtin said in Canada, men are more likely to engage in physical activity, however that doesn’t mean they know there is a link between their exercise and preventing cancer. She said targeting public health messages based on individual factors is something her study results suggest.

“We can’t just send a blanket message out to everybody and expect everyone to change their behaviour or all of a sudden have a shift in their mindset,” Curtin told Postmedia.

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“We need to consider individual factors such as sex or gender, education. All those factors most likely interact to shape how people will perceive these messages and which messages will be most effective.”

Curtin said it could be something as simple as promoting something they already do or are already aware of and just increasing awareness of the link between that behaviour and possible health outcomes.

The study looked at results from the 2016 chronic disease prevention survey which asked questions to 1,200 Albertans aged 18 and up. Participants were a random sample selected by random digit dialling.

The results of the survey showed men were less likely to believe regularly exercising, excessive alcohol consumption, education and where a person lives was linked to cancer. Curtin said acknowledging these links is necessary.

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“It’s important to acknowledge the link between our behaviours and our environments and chronic disease prevention so that we can make decisions that are informed,” said Curtin.

Curtin said the data also shows that men are more likely to believe cancer treatment is more important than prevention.

The study shows the link between individual behaviours and chronic disease prevention, but Curtin said environmental factors also need to be considered.

Curtin said the next step is to further research to understand how variables such as gender, income, education or political leaning are affecting beliefs about health and disease prevention.

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

twitter.com/TaniguchiKellen

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