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Associations between Positive Health
Behaviors and Psychological Distress

By: Marlaine Monroig | Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Bedwell


Research examining the relationship between psychological distress and health behaviors is limited, as most such studies examine specific types of psychological distress and specific types of health behaviors. To address this limitation, the current study assessed a broad range of health behaviors (Health Behavior Checklist) and psychological symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory) in 762 undergraduate students. Results revealed that the total BSI score showed statistically significant negative correlations with the HBC total score and three of the four HBC subscales (Wellness-Maintenance, Substance Risk, Traffic Risk ). Thus, participants reporting more overall psychological distress engaged in fewer positive health behaviors across all health behavior subtypes. Stepwise regressions examining the BSI subscales and their relationship with the HBC subscales revealed that the Hostility subscale of the BSI was the strongest and most consistent predictor of positive health behaviors, as it was negatively related to the HBC total score and three of the four HBC subscales (Wellness Maintenance, Substance Risk, and Traffic Risk). In addition, the Depression subscale of the BSI was negatively related to the Accident Control subscale of the HBC (negative direction). Interestingly, the Phobia subscale of the BSI was related to the Substance Risk and Traffic Risk subscales of the HBC, but in a positive direction. Thus, participants indicating more phobic symptoms reported healthier substance and traffic behaviors. The results of this exploratory study provide an initial model that can inform future studies on this important topic area.

KEY WORDS: health behaviors, psychological distress, lifestyle choices, positive health behaviors, risky health behaviors

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