Joking about cancer as an avoidance strategy among US adults

Nick Carcioppolo, Kevin K. John, Jakob D. Jensen, Andy J. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Findings from years of research on fear appeals suggest that individuals with low efficacy utilize avoidance strategies when they perceive a significant threat'a process called fear control. Some research suggests that joking could be an avoidance strategy. The current study identifies conditions in which people are more likely to joke about colorectal cancer and explores how this behavior may be associated with screening avoidance. Older adults (N'209) recruited from eight different worksites completed a survey measuring fear appeal constructs and enactment of colorectal cancer-related joking. Results of a moderated mediation analysis suggest that men were more likely to joke about colorectal cancer than women, particularly if they perceived significant threat but had limited self-efficacy, signifying fear control. Results support prior fear appeal research, suggesting that an increase in joking behavior concerning colorectal cancer may be indicative of screening avoidance, and describe belief-based mechanisms that explain differences between biological sex and joking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdax087
Pages (from-to)420-428
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • avoidance
  • fear appeals
  • humor
  • joking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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