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Health Educ Res. 2000 Apr;15(2):131-43.

Are perceptions of a family history of heart disease related to health-related attitudes and behaviour?

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MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK.


It has been argued that perceptions of familial tendencies to disease are common and important in decisions about health-related behaviours. Indeed, it has been suggested that the increased 'geneticization' of society may lead to an increased fatalism about health, which could undermine initiatives aimed at reducing coronary-prone behaviour. To date, much of the research on lay perceptions of inheritance has been based on people at high risk of particular genetic disorders or on qualitative research with small general population samples. Here we investigate perceptions of a family history of heart disease, using quantitative techniques, to test hypotheses about the relationship between a perceived family history (pFH), coronary 'candidacy' and adherence to health promotion advice which were raised by earlier anthropological work. We find that reported perceptions of a family history of heart disease are common, particularly amongst women in middle-age. In isolation a pFH is not related to current smoking; however, the odds of smoking are lower for those with a pFH of heart disease when account is also taken of other attitudinal factors (the 'salience' of heart disease and the strength of adherence to conventional coronary health promotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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