Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 378–392 | Cite as

Perceived Extrinsic Mortality Risk and Reported Effort in Looking after Health

Testing a Behavioral Ecological Prediction
  • Gillian V. Pepper
  • Daniel Nettle


Socioeconomic gradients in health behavior are pervasive and well documented. Yet, there is little consensus on their causes. Behavioral ecological theory predicts that, if people of lower socioeconomic position (SEP) perceive greater personal extrinsic mortality risk than those of higher SEP, they should disinvest in their future health. We surveyed North American adults for reported effort in looking after health, perceived extrinsic and intrinsic mortality risks, and measures of SEP. We examined the relationships between these variables and found that lower subjective SEP predicted lower reported health effort. Lower subjective SEP was also associated with higher perceived extrinsic mortality risk, which in turn predicted lower reported health effort. The effect of subjective SEP on reported health effort was completely mediated by perceived extrinsic mortality risk. Our findings indicate that perceived extrinsic mortality risk may be a key factor underlying SEP gradients in motivation to invest in future health.


Extrinsic mortality Health motivation Behavioral ecology Model Socioeconomic Perceptions 

Supplementary material

12110_2014_9204_MOESM1_ESM.xls (100 kb)
ESM 1 (XLS 100 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Behaviour and EvolutionNewcastle UniversityNewcastle Upon TyneUK

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