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.