Where Health and Death Intersect: Insights From a Terror Management Health Model

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health, decision making, risky behavior, terror management, death, mortality salience

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This article offers an integrative understanding of the intersection between health and death from the perspective of the terror management health model. After highlighting the potential for health-related situations to elicit concerns about mortality, we turn to the question, how do thoughts of death influence health-related decision making? Across varied health domains, the answer depends on whether these cognitions are in conscious awareness or not. When mortality concerns are conscious, people form healthy intentions and engage in healthy behavior if efficacy and coping resources are present. In contrast, when contending with accessible but nonconscious thoughts of death, health-relevant decisions are guided more by the implications of the behavior for the individual’s sense of cultural value. Finally, we present research suggesting how these processes can be leveraged to facilitate health promotion and reduce health risk

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Current Directions in Psychological Science, v. 26, issue 2, p. 126-131