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Examining social class as it relates to heuristics women use to determine the trustworthiness of information regarding the link between alcohol and breast cancer risk

Social determinants of health Social class Women's health Alcohol harms Drug use Breast cancer Australia

High rates of alcohol consumption by midlife women, despite the documented risks associated with breast cancer, varies according to social class. However, we know little about how to develop equitable messaging regarding breast cancer prevention that takes into consideration class differences in the receipt and use of such information.

In this study interviews were conducted with 50 midlife (aged 45–64) women living in South Australia, diversified by self-reported alcohol consumption and social class. Women were asked to describe where they sought health information, how they accessed information specific to breast cancer risk as it relates to alcohol, and how they determined whether (or not) such information was trustworthy. De-identified transcripts were analysed following a three-step progressive method with the aim of identifying how women of varying life chances determine the trustworthiness of alcohol and breast cancer risk information.

Three heuristics were used by women:

(1) consideration of whose interests are being served;

(2) engagement with ‘common sense’; and

(3) evaluating the credibility of the message and messenger. Embedded within each heuristic are notable class-based distinctions.

The authors conclude that more equitable provision of cancer prevention messaging might consider how social class shapes the reception and acceptance of risk information. Class should be considered in the development and tailoring of messages as the trustworthiness of organisations behind public health messaging cannot be assumed.

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