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Behavioral adjustment to avian flu in Europe during spring 2006: The roles of knowledge and proximity to risk

Listed author(s):
  • Rudisill, Caroline
  • Costa-Font, Joan
  • Mossialos, Elias

The threat of a widespread avian flu influenza outbreak represented a significant public health challenge for the European region during late 2005 and early 2006. Little is known, however, about how individuals learn about new global-level health risks, especially influenza outbreaks. We empirically test the hypothesis that knowledge about and geographic proximity to avian flu play a role in individuals’ consumption behavior regarding this health risk. This article employs Eurobarometer survey data collected in spring 2006 to examine how Europeans (from 27 European Union countries plus Croatia and Turkey) altered their consumption of poultry, eggs and egg-based products during the virus’ emergence in Europe. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that behavioral change indeed depends on proximity to those risks. Significant differences emerged between individuals’ likelihood of behavioral change in countries where avian flu had been found in humans either in individuals’ countries of residence or in bordering countries. Furthermore, we find that those who were more knowledgeable about avian flu risks were less likely to have reduced their consumption of poultry, eggs or egg-related products in the spring of 2006 compared to six months prior. Yet, the influence knowledge has on consumption behavior is found to change depending on proximity to avian flu risks. These findings have implications for our larger understanding of how individuals alter their behavior in the face of new health risks.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
Issue (Month): 8 ()
Pages: 1362-1371

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:8:p:1362-1371
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.005
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  1. Mario Mazzocchi & Alexandra Lobb & W. Bruce Traill & Alessio Cavicchi, 2008. "Food Scares and Trust: A European Study," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 2-24, February.
  2. Joan Costa-Font & Elias Mossialos, 2005. "Is dread of Genetically Modified food associated with the consumers' demand for information?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(14), pages 859-863.
  3. Viscusi, W Kip, 1997. "Alarmist Decisions with Divergent Risk Information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1657-1670, November.
  4. Harvey James, 2002. "The Trust Paradox: A Survey of Economic Inquiries Into the Nature of Trust and Trustworthiness," Microeconomics 0202001, EconWPA.
  5. Turvey, Calum G. & Onyango, Benjamin & Cuite, Cara & Hallman, William K., 2010. "Risk, fear, bird flu and terrorists: A study of risk perceptions and economics," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-10, January.
  6. Fischhoff, Baruch & Gonzalez, Roxana M. & Small, Deborah A. & Lerner, Jennifer S., 2003. "Judged Terror Risk and Proximity to the World Trade Center," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 26(2-3), pages 137-151, March-May.
  7. Viscusi, W. Kip, 1985. "A Bayesian perspective on biases in risk perception," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 59-62.
  8. Joan Costa-Font & Elias Mossialos, 2006. "The Public as a Limit to Technology Transfer: The Influence of Knowledge and Beliefs in Attitudes towards Biotechnology in the UK," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 31(6), pages 629-645, November.
  9. Cotten, Shelia R & Gupta, Sipi S, 2004. "Characteristics of online and offline health information seekers and factors that discriminate between them," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(9), pages 1795-1806, November.
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