Current Research

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My current research is funded by a 3 year NIH grant from the National Cancer Institute. We know little about how smokers react to stigmatization and the causal consequences. Particularly understudied are reactions to stigma within social contexts such as culture and social status. In the proposed research, guided by the Model of Stigma Induced Identity Threat, two experimental studies in the US and Denmark will examine the effects of stigmatizing smokers among people of various levels of social status. The effects of stigmatization are expected to cause smokers to experience emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and attitudinal effects that reduce the likelihood that they will quit smoking.

Previously my research was funded by a 3 year NIH grant from the National Cancer Institute. I conducted two studies in the U.S. (a smoking-prohibitive culture where smoking is moralized) and Denmark (a smoking–lenient culture where smoking is much less moralized.) One study, a qualitative interview study among U.S. and Danish smokers examined whether smokers’ perceptions of being targets of moralization were associated with risk perceptions of smoking and willingness to quit (Helweg-Larsen, Tobias & Cerban, 2010). The other study was a longitudinal survey study among representative samples of U.S. and Danish smokers and non-smokers examined the extent to which individual moralization predicted risk perceptions of smoking and how these factors predicted willingness to quit (Helweg-Larsen, 2014).

My research has also been funded by a 4-year $4.8 million grant awarded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to a collaborative team of investigators from Dickinson College, Cheyney University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The project (named CHORD: Collaboration in hypertension to reduce disparities) examined economic and non-economic barriers to inadequate control of blood pressure among African Americans and low income adults. In terms of risk perception, my students and I examined the relationship between medication adherence and risk perceptions of stroke and heart attack, worry and risk perceptions, papers on socioeconomic status differences in risk perceptions (Peterson, Helweg-Larsen, et al., 2012), how to best measure perceived risk (Gurmankin, Helweg-Larsen, et al, 2008), what patients think about paying them for staying healthy (Long, Helweg-Larsen, et al, 2008), and finally the results of the intervention (Volpp et al, 2009; Volpp et al, 2009).