Disaster Preparedness and Health Behaviors: An Empirical Study of Similarities and Differences

March 2012 (VOL. 30, NO. 1)

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Despite being special in many ways, disaster preparedness may overlap with health behaviors such as tobacco avoidance, physical exercise, proper weight control, regular medical checkups, safe alcohol use, and seatbelt use. Similarities in the SES distribution of risk and health orientations might make safety with regard to disasters similar to behaviors that prevent disease. Yet, the two literatures have remained largely separate, and studies have not examined the relationships of the two kinds of activities with one another. To address this gap, I use data from two surveys – one in selected states in the U.S. and one in Los Angeles County – that include items on disaster preparedness and several health behaviors. Analysis of the surveys shows a few similarities between disaster preparedness and health behaviors, but the relationships are weak and differences predominate. Although the need remains for surveys to include measures of both kinds of behaviors, the initial findings suggest that the levels and sociodemographic determinants of disaster preparedness overlap little with those of health behaviors.