Sunday, September 29, 2013

If you want to get young people to better learn about the risks associated with their choices, you might want to focus on the benefits that a positive change would bring rather than hounding them with horror stories

Dr Tali Sharot
Said Dr Tali Sharot, the senior author and a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, commenting on the findings of researchers at UCL that young people have greater difficulty in learning from bad news to interpret their risk of future events. 

According to a press release issued by The Wellcome Trust - a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health - the study suggests that campaigns to get young people to stop smoking may be more successful by focusing on the positive benefits, such as having more money and better skin, rather than emphasising negative outcomes like increased disease risk.

Dr Christina Moutsiana
Dr Christina Moutsiana, leading author said : "The findings could help to explain the limited impact of campaigns targeted at young people to highlight the dangers of careless driving, unprotected sex, alcohol and drug abuse, and other risky behaviours." The researchers suggest that reframing information to highlight beneficial outcomes of desired behaviours, such as the positive effect of reduced alcohol consumption on sports performance, rather than the dangers of undesired ones, could have a greater impact.

Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, said: "It’s important that we understand how young people interpret risk to make lifestyle choices that will impact on their future health if we are to stem the rise in preventable diseases."

Researchers feel that the findings might partly explain why displaying health warnings and graphic images of diseased lungs on cigarette packaging has had little effect in reducing the number of teens taking up smoking.

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