A cross-discipline and collaborative approach to identifying the predictors of environmentally friendly and health protective behaviour

Wilson, Lee-Ann Margaret (2012) A cross-discipline and collaborative approach to identifying the predictors of environmentally friendly and health protective behaviour. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Background. As a society, our interaction with the environment is having a negative impact on human health. For example, an increase in car use for short trips, over walking or cycling, has contributed to an increase in obesity, diabetes and poor heart health and also contributes to pollution, which is associated with asthma and other respiratory diseases. In order to change the nature of that interaction, to be more positive and healthy, it is recommended that individuals adopt a range of environmentally friendly behaviours (such as walking for transport and reducing the use of plastics). Effective interventions aimed at increasing such behaviours will need to be evidence based and there is a need for the rapid communication of information from the point of research, into policy and practice. Further, a number of health disciplines, including psychology and public health, share a common mission to promote health and well-being. Therefore, the objective of this project is to take a cross-discipline and collaborative approach to reveal psychological mechanisms driving environmentally friendly behaviour. This objective is further divided into three broad aims, the first of which is to take a cross-discipline and collaborative approach to research. The second aim is to explore and identify the salient beliefs which most strongly predict environmentally friendly behaviour. The third aim is to build an augmented model to explain environmentally friendly behaviour. The thesis builds on the understanding that an interdisciplinary collaborative approach will facilitate the rapid transfer of knowledge to inform behaviour change interventions.

Methods. The application of this approach involved two surveys which explored the psycho-social predictors of environmentally friendly behaviour. Following a qualitative pilot study, and in collaboration with an expert panel comprising academics, industry professionals and government representatives, a self-administered, Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) based, mail survey was distributed to a random sample of 3000 residents of Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region (Queensland, Australia). This survey explored specific beliefs including attitudes, norms, perceived control, intention and behaviour, as well as environmental altruism and green identity, in relation to walking for transport and switching off lights when not in use. Following analysis of the mail survey data and based on feedback from participants and key stakeholders, an internet survey was employed (N=451) to explore two additional behaviours, switching off appliances at the wall when not in use, and shopping with reusable bags. This work is presented as a series of interrelated publications which address each of the research aims.

Presentation of Findings. Chapter five of this thesis consists of a published paper which addresses the first aim of the research and outlines the collaborative and multidisciplinary approach employed in the mail survey. The paper argued that forging alliances with those who are in a position to immediately utilise the findings of research has the potential to improve the quality and timely communication of research. Illustrating this timely communication, Chapter six comprises a report presented to Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC). This report addresses aim's one and two. The report contains a summary of participation in a range of environmentally friendly behaviours and identifies the beliefs which most strongly predicted walking for transport and switching off lights (from the mail survey). These salient beliefs were then recommended as targets for interventions and included: participants believing that they might save money; that their neighbours also switch off lights; that it would be inconvenient to walk for transport and that their closest friend also walks for transport. Chapter seven also addresses the second aim and presents a published conference paper in which the salient beliefs predicting the four specified behaviours (from both surveys) are identified and potential applications for intervention are discussed. Again, a range of TPB based beliefs, including descriptive normative beliefs, were predictive of environmentally friendly behaviour. This paper was also provided to MBRC, along with recommendations for applying the findings. For example, as descriptive normative beliefs were consistently correlated with environmentally friendly behaviour, local councils could engage in marketing and interventions (workshops, letter box drops, internet promotions) which encourage parents and friends to model, rather than simply encourage, environmentally friendly behaviour. The final two papers, presented in Chapters eight and nine, addresses the third aim of the project. These papers each present two behaviours together to inform a TPB based theoretical model with which to predict environmentally friendly behaviour. A generalised model is presented, which is found to predict the four specific behaviours under investigation. The role of demographics was explored across each of the behaviour specific models. It was found that some behaviour's differ by age, gender, income or education. In particular, adjusted models predicted more of the variance in walking for transport amongst younger participants and females. Adjusted models predicted more variance in switching off lights amongst those with a bachelor degree or higher and predicted more variance in switching off appliances amongst those on a higher income. Adjusted models predicted more variance in shopping with reusable bags for males, people 40 years or older, those on a higher income and those with a bachelor degree or higher. However, model structure and general predictability was relatively consistent overall. The models provide a general theoretical framework from which to better understand the motives and predictors of environmentally friendly behaviour.

Conclusion. This research has provided an example of the benefits of a collaborative interdisciplinary approach. It has identified a number of salient beliefs which can be targeted for social marketing campaigns and educational initiatives; and these findings, along with recommendations, have been passed on to a local council to be used as part of their ongoing community engagement programs. Finally, the research has informed a practical model, as well as behaviour specific models, for predicting sustainable living behaviours. Such models can highlight important core constructs from which targeted interventions can be designed. Therefore, this research represents an important step in undertaking collaborative approaches to improving population health through human-environment interactions.

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ID Code: 63940
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Turrell, Gavin
Keywords: environmentally friendly behaviour, climate change, Theory of Planned Behaviour, environmental altruism, health, interdisciplinary, public health, conservation psychology
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 04 Nov 2013 01:50
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015 23:20

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