10 Factors that Influence Help-Seeking Behaviors

In the book Medical Sociology written by David Mechanic (1978), a thorough theory of help‐seeking behavior is provided. The theory emphasizes individual differences in help-seeking behaviors. In other words, why do some people seek help, while others don’t?

Socialization plays a major role in help-seeking behaviors, as it culturally defines what illness is, and how it should be dealt with (e.g., negatively or positively). The cultural meaning and values of illness are important in this regard.

Some people cope well with their illnesses, while others find it difficult. If people experience difficulties, they are more likely to seek help, but that is not always the case. So, when do people seek help from health professionals when they are ill? That question is difficult to answer, however, a part of the answer is given below by David Mechanic.

10 factors that influence help-seeking behaviors

  1. Visibility, recognizability, or perceptual salience of symptoms or deviant signs
  2. The extent to which the symptoms are perceived as serious
  3. The extent to which symptoms disrupt family, work, and other social activities
  4. The frequency of the appearance of symptoms, their persistence, or their frequency of recurrence
  5. The tolerance threshold of those who are exposed to and evaluate the symptoms
  6. Available information, knowledge, and cultural assumptions and understandings of the  bodily changes
  7. Basic needs which lead to autistic psychological processes –perceptual processes that distort reality
  8. Needs competing with illness responses – competing needs and priorities
  9. Competing (cognitive) interpretations that can be assigned to the symptoms , once they are recognized
  10. Availability of treatment resources, physical proximity, and psychological and monetary costs of taking action
Image: MIT-Libraries
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