As the number of minorities and older adults in the U.S. increase, it is increasingly important to reduce health care disparities among these groups. Recent reports have shown that ethnic disparities in health care utilization, such as successful patient-physician communication and engagement in preventative behaviors, are especially critical for older adults. Optimal health care depends on whether an individual chooses to follow their doctors'recommendations, adhere to prescribed treatments, and engage in health promotion programs. Understanding cultural and age-related differences in how these choices are made can help to reduce disparities in health care. The proposed program of research will test applications of Affect Valuation Theory (AVT) as a theoretical foundation for understanding cultural and age-related differences in how health care decisions are made. AVT suggests that variation in "ideal affect" (i.e., the affective states that people value) may contribute to cultural and age-related differences in health care decisions.
The specific aims of the proposed research are to: (1) Examine the relationship between ideal affect and health care decisions;and (2) Determine whether cultural and age-related differences in ideal affect may in part account for differences in health care decisions. Using both survey and experimental methods, we will investigate the relationship between ideal affect and health decision making across the life span for two distinct cultural groups, European American and Chinese American. First, we will measure how ideal affect influences health care decision making among participants ranging in age from 21 to 80. Then, we will manipulate ideal affect and subsequently assess preferences for health care options. Findings from these studies will establish the role of ideal affect and health care decision making as a potential mechanism for explaining ethnic health disparities across the life span.
By understanding how ideal affect influences decision making across age and cultural groups, the proposed research will help to develop more culturally sensitive and appropriate treatments and interventions. Thus, integrating ideal affect into the improvement of health care programs may address the needs of diverse populations more adequately.