IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rudisill, Caroline & Costa-Font, Joan & Mossialos, Elias, 2012. "Behavioral adjustment to avian flu in Europe during spring 2006: The roles of knowledge and proximity to risk," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1362-1371.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:8:p:1362-1371
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.005

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Viscusi, W. Kip, 1985. "A Bayesian perspective on biases in risk perception," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 59-62.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Viscusi, W Kip, 1997. "Alarmist Decisions with Divergent Risk Information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1657-1670, November.
    5. 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.
    6. Harvey James, 2002. "The Trust Paradox: A Survey of Economic Inquiries Into the Nature of Trust and Trustworthiness," Microeconomics 0202001, EconWPA.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:8:p:1362-1371. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.