Comparing Chinese International Students' and US Domestic Students' Health Care Decisions: An Application of the Theory of Motivated Information Management

Helen M Lillie, Purdue University


Despite being a population significant in its size and continued growth in US universities (Ellis-Bosold & Thornton-Orr, 2013; Institute of International Education, 2013), little research has been conducted on the physical health of Chinese international students. It has been suggested by some researchers (Collins, 2001; Fallon & Barbara, 2005; Russell, Thomson, & Rosenthal, 2008) that international students do not always seek medical help when it is warranted, particularly due to cultural concerns about health care and communication. This study investigated how both Chinese international and US domestic students decide whether or not to seek medical help when they are sick. The author used the Theory of Motivated Information Management (Afifi and Weiner, 2004) as a framework through which to study this phenomenon, as situations of illness often lead to uncertainty (Brashers, Goldsmith, & Hsieh, 2002; Miller, 2014). The impact of various cultural variables and informational support on medical help seeking were also examined. The results suggest that for Chinese international students, concerns about communication efficacy and outcome expectations are important to the decision making process. For US domestic students, locus of control, uncertainty discrepancy, hope, and informational support from family play the largest roles in facilitating help seeking. The results also point to student concerns about the university health services available to them.




Venetis, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Communication|Health care management

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