Fatalism and health behavior: a meta-analytic review

Lawrence D. Cohn
Óscar Armando Esparza del Villar
Lisbeily Domínguez Ruvalcaba
Coordinador de obra


The association between fatalism and health behavior was assessed in a meta-
analytic review of 46 studies comprising 51 independent samples and
25,167 participants. Effect sizes (Hedges gu) ranged from -0.54 to 1.49; positive
values indicated that higher levels of fatalism were associated with
higher levels of health threatening behavior and non-compliance with health promoting
activities. A random effects analysis yielded a weighted average gu of 0.26 (95%
CI: 0.14 to 0.38) indicating that participants who did not engage in health promoting
behaviors held significantly more fatalistic beliefs than participants who engaged in
health promoting behaviors. The strongest relationship between fatalism and health
behavior was found in studies of preventive screening such as breast cancer screening
and prostate cancer screening. Adults who did not engage in preventive screening
held more fatalistic beliefs than did adults who engaged in screening (weighted
average gu = 0.28; 95% CI: 0.01 to 0.55). Several moderating variables were also investigated
including the type of fatalistic belief assessed in each study. The findings
suggest that some fatalistic beliefs are associated with increased levels of non-compliance
but the direction of causality remains undetermined. The findings also suggest
that the fatalism-health behavior relationship may be smaller than previously
suggested. Implications for future research and designing health interventions are

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