Background: Risk perceptions are central to many health behavior theories. However, the relationship between risk perceptions and behavior, muddied by instances of inappropriate assessment and analysis, often looks weak.
Method: A meta-analysis of eligible studies assessing the bivariate association between adult vaccination and perceived likelihood, susceptibility, or severity was conducted.
Results: Thirty-four studies met inclusion criteria (N = 15,988). Risk likelihood (pooled r = .26), susceptibility (pooled r = .24), and severity (pooled r = .16) significantly predicted vaccination behavior. The risk perception-behavior relationship was larger for studies that were prospective, had higher quality risk measures, or had unskewed risk or behavior measures.
Conclusions: The consistent relationships between risk perceptions and behavior, larger than suggested by prior meta-analyses, suggest that risk perceptions are rightly placed as core concepts in theories of health behavior.
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