Risk, Communication and Health Psychology

Risk, Communication and Health Psychology

Risk, Communication and Health Psychology

Risk, Communication and Health Psychology


"...this text...will become a reference for years to come."
Health Expectations

This is the first book to clearly assess the increasingly important area of communication of risk in the health sector. We are moving away from the days when paternalistic doctors managed healthcare without involving patients in decision making. With the current emphasis on patient empowerment and shared decision making, patients want and need reliable, comprehensive and understandable information about their conditions and treatment. In order to make informed decisions, the people concerned must understand the risks and benefits associated with possible treatments. But the challenge for health professionals is how best to communicate this complex medical information to diverse audiences. The book examines:

  • Risk: defining and explaining how the term is used by different disciplines, how its meanings have changed over time and how the general public understand it
  • Health communication and the effects on health behaviours
  • Effective risk communication to individuals and the wider public
  • Effectiveness of patient information leaflets, and strategies for improving oral and written health communications
  • The cognitive and emotional issues at stake for patients in understanding risk and health information
  • The use of new technologies in risk and health communication
  • Ethical issues, and the future of risk communication
Using examples from disciplines including psychology, sociology, health, medicine, pharmacy, statistics and business and management, this book is key reading for students who need to understand the effect of risk in health psychology as well as for health professionals interested in doctor-patient communication, informed consent and patient welfare.


This series of books in health psychology is designed to support postgraduate and postqualification studies in psychology, nursing, medicine and paramedical sciences as well as health psychology units in the undergraduate curriculum. Health psychology has grown, and continues to grow, rapidly as a field of study. Concerned as it is with the application of psychological theories and models to the promotion and maintenance of health, and the individual and interpersonal aspects of adaptive behaviour in illness and disability, health psychology has a wide remit and a potentially important role to play in the future.

Risk and risk behaviour are central issues in maintaining positive health and managing ill health, but there is a dearth of good relevant books on the topic. The perception, communication and management of risks to health provide a number of challenges, not least of which is presenting the concept of risk so that it can be understood readily. This book is a timely and welcome addition to the series. It is written in an accessible style and is designed to appeal to a wide audience. A special feature of the book is that it brings together a range of material previously covered in separate texts.

Professor Dianne Berry has drawn on her own extensive research and that of others to produce an up-to-date and evidence-based text, which is also engaging and enjoyable to read. She begins by considering the dilemmas inherent in patient empowerment and shared decision making, and goes on to consider different perspectives on, and models of, risk. The next chapters cover influencing health behaviours, communicating information about health and treatment, and communicating probabilistic information – a core topic and one which has challenged generations of health educators. Professor Berry then discusses the use of patient information leaflets and other ways of conveying and assessing risk. The book ends by drawing together information on 'where we are now' with regard to risk, and outlines future challenges and opportunities.

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