Insights on public health messaging: negative behavior change

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Insights on public health messaging geared to change negative behavior.

Loss frame is more efficient in cases when the subject of the health message deals with promoting detection of behaviors, illness-detecting, or a health-affirming function to emphasize the disadvantage of non-compliance and to increase individuals’ perceptions of negative consequences. When using this form of messages, the defensive reaction of the people should be taken into account. As to the gain frame, it should be used on a personalized basis of the audience, when the intention is to increase the perception of the negative effect; however, it should only be conducted under high intensity.


  • Initial research found that the relative effectiveness of gain-framed or loss-framed appeals depends, in part, on whether a behavior serves as an illness-detecting or a health-affirming function.
  • Messages aimed at encouraging disease detection behaviors, a loss-framed approach (which emphasizes the disadvantages of noncompliance with the communicator's recommendation) is only slightly, but statistically significantly, more persuasive than a gain-framed approach (which emphasizes the advantages of compliance).
  • Loss-framing is expected to improve an individual's perception of the negative consequences more than a gain-framing approach due to their nature, given that a gain-framed message focuses on the positive outcomes.
  • A mediation model, demonstrating that the persuasiveness of loss-framed message over gain- and non-gain-framed ones for individuals facing a personally relevant issue, is partly due to perceived response-efficacy.


  • The gain-framed message was more persuasive than the loss-framed message, but only when the message was personalized to increase self-relevance. Moreover, the effect was due to a notable drop in persuasion in the loss condition, which was probably caused by a defensive reaction.
  • A gain-framed message tends to be more effective in motivating smokers to quit according to several previous research.
  • People exposed to gain-framing perceived more negative consequences than those exposed to loss-framing. This could be because perceived negative consequences are not influenced by the valence of a framing (positive versus negative) but rather from its intensity.
  • One of the studies showed that the influence of perceived negative consequences on the decision to undergo cholesterol screening could have been weak as people could have perceived the consequences of having high cholesterol as easily manageable. This reflects on the fact that the perception of the result would affect people differently when they are faced with a morbid consequence rather than a minor effect on their lives.


As it is common in academic literature to refer to previous research papers, we used data from earlier published papers as the more recent ones we found confirmed the findings of the earlier research. In cases in which the new research added or contradicted the early research, we provided the updated findings. Also, as some research are not fully public and are behind paywalls, we extracted the relevant information from references, summaries, and introductions provided by the publishers.