Compensatory Health Beliefs (CHBs), defined as beliefs that an unhealthy behavior can be compensated for by engaging in another healthy behavior, are assumed to hinder health behavior change. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of CHBs for two distinct eating behaviors (increased fruit and vegetable consumption and eating fewer unhealthy snacks) with a mixed method approach. Participants (N = 232, mean age = 27.3 years, 76.3% women) were randomly assigned to a fruit and vegetable or an unhealthy snack condition. For the quantitative approach, path models were fitted to analyze the role of CHBs within a social-cognitive theory of health behavior change, the Health Action Process Approach (HAPA). With a content analysis, the qualitative approach investigated the occurrence of CHBs in smartphone chat groups when pursuing an eating goal. Both analyses were conducted for each eating behavior separately. Path models showed that CHBs added predictive value for intention, but not behavior over and above HAPA variables only in the unhealthy snack condition. CHBs were significantly negatively associated with intention and action planning. Content analysis revealed that people generated only a few CHB messages. However, CHBs were more likely to be present and were also more diverse in the unhealthy snack condition compared to the fruit and vegetable condition. Based on a mixed method approach, this study suggests that CHBs play a more important role for eating unhealthy snacks than for fruit and vegetable consumption.
Bibliographical noteNeither this research nor the authors did receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Jenifer Inauen was employed at the University of Zurich during data collection.
- compensatory health beliefs
- unhealthy snacks
- fruit and vegetable consumption
- health action process approach
- smartphone chat groups