Implicit Health Associations Across the Adult Lifespan

Author: ORCID icon
Werntz, Alexandra, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Teachman, Bethany, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Objective: Explicit reports of one’s health self-concept (e.g., how would you rate your overall health?) are commonly used in research and clinical practice. These measures predict important health outcomes, but rely on conscious introspection so may not fully capture the different components of health self-concept (e.g., less consciously controlled components) that relate to actual health. The current study examined the health-Implicit Association Test (health-IAT), and how it may add to our prediction of health from self-reports.

Design: 1004 participants (ages 18-85) completed this web-based study with the health-IAT (assessing self-healthy implicit associations) and explicit assessments of health.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported measures of physical functioning.

Results: The health-IAT was valid and reliable. On average, individuals exhibited stronger implicit self-healthy than self-sick associations. Older age (compared to younger age) was associated with stronger self-healthy implicit associations. Further, consistent with hypotheses, the health-IAT incrementally predicted self-reported markers of physical functioning, even after controlling for age and explicit health self-concept.

Conclusions: The health-IAT appears to be a valid and reliable new measure that assesses implicit self-concept relating to physical health among adults within a wide age range. Results point to the potential value of assessing implicit health self-concept in both research and practice.

MA (Master of Arts)
Implicit Association Test, physical health, aging, self-concept
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