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July 1989

The Expression of Health Risk Information

Author Affiliations

American Council on Science and Health 1995 Broadway New York, NY 10023; Science and Technology American Medical Association 535 N Dearborn St Chicago, IL 60610

Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(7):1507-1508. doi:10.1001/archinte.1989.00390070047003

Each of us makes decisions almost continuously about issues that affect our health and well-being. Choice of diet, mode of travel, recreation, occupation, homesite, and lifestyle all affect our prognosis for a long and healthy life. In addressing these choices, we usually give little thought to how they affect our health. Many other factors usually override health concerns, especially if the negative health effects have a low probability of occurring, or if they are likely to occur only far in the future.

Many people often make poor decisions about personal health risks even when the risks are substantial, the impact is dramatic, or the effect occurs immediately or in the near future. For example, many people decide to smoke or chew tobacco in spite of the substantial and documented risk of serious health problems caused by tobacco use. Others engage in high-risk behaviors for sexually transmitted diseases, including infection by

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