Message framing is important in health communication research to encourage behaviour change. Psoriasis, a long-term inflammatory skin condition, has additional comorbidities including high levels of anxiety and cardiovascular disease (CVD), making message framing particularly important. This experimental study aimed to: (1) identify whether health messages about psoriasis presented as either gain- or loss-framed were more effective for prompting changes in behavioural intentions (BI), (2) examine whether BI were driven by a desire to improve psoriasis or reduce CVD risk; (3) examine emotional reactions to message frame; and (4) examine predictors of BI.
A two by two experiment was conducted to examine message frame (loss vs. gain) and message focus (psoriasis symptom reduction vs. CVD risk reduction). Participants with psoriasis (n=217) were randomly allocated to one of four evidence-based health messages related to health behaviours (smoking, alcohol, diet, and physical activity) as part of an online questionnaire. Information about patients’ health profile was collected to identify participants with high or low CVD risk. BI was the primary outcome.
Analysis of variance tests and hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted. A significant frame by focus interaction was found for BI to reduce alcohol intake (p=.023); loss-framed messages were more effective for CVD risk reduction information, whilst gain-framed messages were more effective for psoriasis symptom reduction information. BI for increased physical activity and improving diet were not statistically significant.
High versus low CVD risk was a significant predictor for increased BI for both alcohol reduction (β= .290, p= <.01) and increased physical activity (β= -.231, p= <.001).
Message framing may be an important factor to consider depending on the health benefit being emphasised (disease symptom reduction or CVD risk reduction) and patient stated priorities. Condition-specific health messages in psoriasis populations may increase the likelihood of message effectiveness for alcohol reduction.