Commonsense illness beliefs, adherence behaviors, and hypertension control among African Americans

Eric B. Hekler, Jennifer Lambert, Elaine Leventhal, Howard Leventhal, Eric Jahn, Richard J. Contrada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Hypertension, particularly among African Americans, has been increasing in importance in the past 10 years. One aspect of this problem is poor disease management. This study examined illness beliefs, behaviors, and hypertension control among 102 African American outpatients. Participants were interviewed about their commonsense beliefs concerning hypertension and its management in accordance with Leventhal's commonsense model of self-regulation (CSM). Also assessed were medication adherence, stress-reducing behaviors, and lifestyle behaviors recommended for blood pressure control. Blood pressure was measured at about the time of interviewing. Results indicated that endorsement of a medical belief model of hypertension (i.e., caused and controlled by factors such as diet, age, and weight) was cross-sectionally associated with lower systolic blood pressure, a relationship that was statistically mediated by lifestyle behaviors (e.g., cut down salt, exercise). Endorsement of a stress belief model (i.e., stress is the main factor in hypertension cause and control) was associated with engagement in stress-related behaviors but not with blood pressure. These results further support the utility of the CSM for understanding patients' disease management behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • African American
  • Disease management
  • Hypertension
  • Illness beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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