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Students who feel ‘macho’ likely to disdain STD vaccines


Washington : College students who feel invincible or impervious to physical harm are likely to disdain vaccines to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and herpes.

Conversely, students who feel impervious to psychological harm or those who didn’t care what others thought, are more likely to get the vaccine.

“Previous researchers have used invulnerability measures to predict health-endangering behaviours in students,” said Russell Ravert, assistant professor at the Missouri University (MU) College of Human Environmental Sciences who led the study.

“But this study is unique in that it considers the role of invulnerability in students’ health-protective or preventative (sic) behaviours,” Ravert added.

Ravert measured two invulnerability factors – danger and psychological. Students who viewed themselves as physically invincible, were more likely to decline the vaccine.

One explanation is that strong feelings of danger invulnerability may be associated with decreased threat, which can diminish protective behaviours, Ravert said.

Students’ psychological imperviousness may protect against the possible stigma associated with getting vaccinated for HIV, or other STDs, Ravert said.

“It is important to determine what factors are associated with vaccine acceptance because not all students will be willing to take vaccines,” said Ravert.

“Efforts to promote vaccines should consider that students who aren’t worried about being harmed are less likely to get the vaccine, even when it’s warranted by their sexual behaviour.”

In the study, the strongest predictor of vaccine acceptance was students’ perceived susceptibility of contracting HIV, followed by their number of sexual partners. Students’ decisions also were influenced by the cost of the vaccine.

These findings were published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour.