The Implications of Death for Health: A Terror Management Model of Behavioral Health Promotion

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social psychology, health promotion, self-esteem, mortality salience, creatureliness, death awareness

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This article introduces a terror management health model (TMHM). The model integrates disparate health and social psychology literatures to elucidate how the conscious and nonconscious awareness of death can influence the motivational orientation that is most operative in the context of health decisions. Three formal propositions are presented. Proposition 1 suggests that conscious thoughts about death can instigate health-oriented responses aimed at removing death-related thoughts from current focal attention. Proposition 2 suggests that the unconscious resonance of death-related cognition promotes self-oriented defenses directed toward maintaining, not one's health, but a sense of meaning and self-esteem. The last proposition suggests that confrontations with the physical body may undermine symbolic defenses and thus present a previously unrecognized barrier to health promotion activities. In the context of each proposition, moderators are proposed, research is reviewed, and implications for health promotion are discussed.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychological Review, v. 115, issue 4, p. 1032-1053