Risk perception for developing diabetes: Comparative risk judgments of physicians

Elizabeth A. Walker, C. K. Mertz, Maria R. Kalten, James Flynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE - To assess personal risk perceptions for developing diabetes among practicing physicians. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS - Little is known about comparative risk perceptions concerning diabetes among medical experts. We administered the new Risk Perception Survey for Developing Diabetes to 535 nondiabetic physicians. The participants were 86% male, had a mean age of 49 years, and were 66% white and 24% Asian. Almost 37% were considered at higher risk for developing diabetes based on self-reported risk factors. Over 91% of respondents were either internal medicine or family medicine physicians. RESULTS - Of the four subscales, Comparative Disease Risk and Environmental Risk indicated moderate risk perceptions, whereas Personal Control scores indicated a robust sense of control over developing diabetes. Optimistic Bias scores showed a tendency toward participants' being optimistic that they were less likely to develop diabetes. Based on self-reported risk factor categories, a comparison of scores between physicians at higher risk (n = 196) and those at lower risk (n = 313) for developing diabetes showed greater comparative disease risk perception among the higher risk physicians (P < 0.01), as well as greater perception of diabetes risk (P < 0.001). Nearly 50% of higher risk physicians, however, reported an optimistic bias that they were less likely to develop diabetes than other people of their same age and sex. Women (n = 75) reported greater perception of environmental risks than men (P < 0.001). Asian respondents (n = 126) reported greater perception of environmental risk (P < 0.001) and greater worry about developing diabetes (P < 0.0001) than white respondents (n = 355). Regression analyses showed that scores for nondiabetes comparative disease risks (0.39) and level of optimistic bias (0.31) were predictive of diabetes risk perception (P < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS - The data gathered on physicians' perception of their personal risk for developing diabetes and other comparative risk judgments provided an expert comparison for future analyses of at-risk of lay individuals' perceptions of diabetes risk. Effective communication of diabetes risk among physicians, patients, and the general public relies on knowledge of and sensitivity to group differences in these perceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2543-2548
Number of pages6
JournalDiabetes care
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


Dive into the research topics of 'Risk perception for developing diabetes: Comparative risk judgments of physicians'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this