Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen

Abstract

Researchers have noted that 70% of diseases are preventable (Ballard et al., 2007) yet few individuals use preventive services (Wang et al., 2005). The purpose of this study was to examine differences between students who seek preventive services at a university wellness center and those who do not and explore variables that impact readiness for change and health-related behavior. The Wellness Center at Southern Illinois University provides numerous direct services to students, such as alcohol and drug counseling, stress management counseling, nutrition counseling, STD testing, pregnancy counseling, biofeedback, and relationship counseling. Healthy People 2010 is a national initiative, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, involving various efforts to promote health and prevent disease in the United States. The developers introduced Leading Health Indicators, which reflect major dimensions of health behavior and factors that affect health. These indicators, including physical activity, overweight and obesity, tobacco use, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, and injury and violence, are used as a guide to examine the health behaviors in college students. Seventy-nine university wellness center clients and 80 participants from the general student population completed a demographic questionnaire that included questions about participants' risky health behaviors, the Perceived Wellness Scale (Adams, Benzer & Steinhardt, 1997), the Attitudes toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale- Short Form (Fischer & Farina, 1995), the Outcome Questionnaire-45.2 (Lambert et al., 1996), and the Stages of Change Scales (McConnaughy, Prochaska, & Velicer, 1983). Participants who used wellness services reported more risky health behaviors and psychological distress than the general sample. Health behaviors from this sample were compared to a national data set (YRBSS; CDC, 2005) and, although differences between specific rates of behavior were found, there was no difference in total risk score. Wellness service users were more likely to be in the contemplation stage, whereas those from the general sample were more likely to be in the action stage. Participants who were actively making a change were more likely to feel less psychological distress and have more perceived wellness than those in the contemplation stage. Participants in the maintenance stage reported having more negative wellness perceptions compared to participants in all other stages.

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