Health message framing effects on attitudes, intentions, and behavior: a meta-analytic review

Ann Behav Med. 2012 Feb;43(1):101-16. doi: 10.1007/s12160-011-9308-7.


Background: Message framing has been an important focus in health communication research, yet prior meta-analyses found limited support for using framing to increase persuasiveness of health messages.

Purpose: This meta-analysis distinguished the outcomes used to assess the persuasive impact of framed messages (attitudes, intentions, or behavior).

Methods: One hundred eighty-nine effect sizes were identified from 94 peer-reviewed, published studies which compared the persuasive impact of gain- and loss-framed messages.

Results: Gain-framed messages were more likely than loss-framed messages to encourage prevention behaviors (r = 0.083, p = 0.002), particularly for skin cancer prevention, smoking cessation, and physical activity. No effect of framing was found when persuasion was assessed by attitudes/intentions or among studies encouraging detection.

Conclusions: Gain-framed messages appear to be more effective than loss-framed messages in promoting prevention behaviors. Research should examine the contexts in which loss-framed messages are most effective, and the processes that mediate the effects of framing on behavior.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Communication / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Persuasive Communication*