Special Session Summary Consumer Commitment: Investing in One’S Health


Debra L. Scammon and Marlys J. Mason (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Consumer Commitment: Investing in One’S Health", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 99-100.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Pages 99-100



Debra L. Scammon, University of Utah

Marlys J. Mason, University of Utah

Why do people decide to invest or not invest in their health? What influences their decision to make such an involved commitment? One way to conceptualize decisions about investments in adopting healthy lifestyles (and the related specific health behaviors) is that they are not simple, one-time choices. Rather, to have the desired impact, one must make a long-term commitment to the behavior. First an initial decision to invest one’s time, energy, and other resources in a healthful behavior must be made. Then to maintain the healthful behavior, sacrifice and renewal of commitment must be made everyday. It may be, however, that resultant health is not the key motivator in the adoption of and commitment to healthy behaviors. Because the behavior is not done in isolation, social influences may have a significant impact on one’s commitment. Other motives such as peer acceptance, reference group membership, and family support may be imporant determinant values.

We suggest that this continuous investment in one’s self signifies a deep, complex consumer commitment process; the focus of this session is that process. Previous studies from other disciplines such as public health, preventive medicine, nursing, and nutrition have examined people’s motivation for adopting preventive health measures. However, the research appears to be equivocal in light of the significant differences among dependent constructs (e.g. having an annual exam, participating in daily exercise). The literature suggests several contributing factors, but with little consensus. Furthermore, few studies have explored this concept of deep consumer commitment using the approaches of consumer research. The four empirically based papers in this session will examine what motivates consumers to commit themselves to healthy behaviors.

The first paper by Granzin and Mason will introduce Maehr and Braskamp’s theory of personal investment. The theory suggests that people choose to invest their time, energy, and resources in an activity based on their perception of how it relates to their intentions, beliefs, and goals. Furthermore, the perceived meaning of the activity is influenced by personal antecedents which people bring to the decision process. The authors will discuss the relevant constructs for measuring social and intrinsic motivations and then apply it to survey data. Specifically, their analysis will examine how variables such as health incentives, social incentives, extrinsic rewards, self-reliance, social identity, information, perceived options, and demographics influence a consumer’s commitment to exercise behaviors.

In the second paper, Goodwin and Hill will present their research regarding fitness behaviors. Using in-depth interviews, they investigate the motivations for healthy individuals to become long-term, committed exercisers. The authors also explore self-initiated change, changes in self-concept, and shifts in social networks experienced by committed exercisers.

The third paper presented by Cole and Balasubramanian attempts to better understand the overall health consciousness of consumers with regards to nutrition. Focus groups are used to explore the consumer’s motivations to use nutrition information and package labels. The role of the consumer as food shopper and "nutritional guardian" are also discussed.

In the final paper Mason and Scammon investigate the increasing use of dietary/nutritional supplements by health-conscious consumers. Interviews explore the motivation behind initial trial of a supplement and continued, committed use. Discussion involves social influences, product expectations, and information from commercial sources subject to different disclosure standards.

By examining nutrition consciousness, exercise, and dietary supplement use as three different behaviors potentially impacting health, we hope to better understand both the common and unique expected benefits of each behavior. We anticipate that commitment to each of these different behaviors is motivated by a desire to invest in one’s health. By comparing the three behaviors, we hope to be able to isolate the common attributes as well as the uniqueness of both the instrumental behaviors and the consumers who invest in each. This understanding will help guide future discussions about the needs for and usefulness of regulations and consumer education.




Kent Granzin, University of Utah

Marlys J. Mason, University of Utah


Personal Investment Theory provides a useful conceptual foundation for understanding persons’ involvement in exercise. PIT proposes that involvement comes from the Meaning persons develop within a choice context, and that certain Antecedents influence this Meaning. Our survey data show involvement in pure exercise increases with greater recognition of exercise as a challenge, perceived competence to meet this challenge, and perceived opportunities and barriers to exercise. Involvement in sports as exercise primarily reflects a desire to participate with others. Supportive Meaning derives chiefly from heavy information use, finding exercise enjoyable, concern with others’ expectations, a history of participation, and younger age. [Complete paper follows.]



Cathy Goodwin, University of Manitoba

Ronald Paul Hill, University of Portland


The rising expenditures on and political attention to health care suggests the importance of health behaviors as policy goals. With the increase in managed care programs and the resulting attenuation of physician-patient relationships, consumers must become responsible for initiating and maintaining healthy behaviors (Roth 1994). The US Public Health Service has emphasized the need for those who are currently healthy to engage in activities that promote health and reduce future risks. As Powell (1988, p. 33) notes:

Today’s leading killers and cripplers must be attacked long before they become manifest because our postmanifestation treatments are inadequate. To wait until a person has had a heart attack or has been killed in an auto accident is to wait too long. Physical activity patterns need to be in place years before a heart attack might occur, and seatbelts need to be buckled each time one gets into a car.

The motivation of individuals to establish long-term physical activity patterns can be viewed as an important goal. Adoption of health behaviors often involves commitment to long-term behavioral patterns that ultimately may involve lifestyle change. Examples include dietary changes, withdrawal from addictions, driving without drinking, and exercise. Some behaviors, particularly healthy eating, smoking cessation and exercise, require an extended commitment before results can be obtained. This commitment must be public; reference groups will be aware that one no longer smokes or eats certain foods. They also force alteration of the routines of daily living.

Such long-term commitments that affect everyday life can be contrasted with one-time behaviors performed in medical settings, such as obtaining a dental checkup (Gelb and Gilly 1979) or getting a flu shot (Oliver and Berger 1979). In this vein, our presentation examines factors that influence long-term exercise commitment among adult women in non-clinical settings. Our specific objectives are to (a) explore the context and experience of exercise among women with varying commitment levels who have in common a current membership in a health club, and (b) examine the dynamics of motivation, costs and benefits associated with long-term exercise participation.


Gelb, Betsy D.and Mary C. Gilly (1979), "The Effect of Promotional Techniques on Purchase of Preventive Dental Care," Journal of Consumer Research, 6 (December) 305308.

Oliver, Richard L. and Philip K. Berger (1979), "A Path Analysis of Preventive Health Care Decision Models" Journal of Consumer Research, 6 (September) 113-122.

Powell, Kenneth E. (1988), "Habitual Exercise and Public Health: An Epidemiological View," in Dishman, Rod K., ed., Exercise Adherence, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books.

Roth, Martin S. (1994), "Enhancing Consumer Involvement in Health Care: The Dynamics of Control, Empowerment and Trust," Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 13 (1) 115132.



Catherine A. Cole, University of Iowa

Siva Balasubramanian, University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale


We synthesize and present results from eight different focus groups to better understand motivation to use nutritional information. All groups had 8-10 primary food shoppers. They were held in comfortable, but neutral settings (such as a lounge in an off campus building). Participants were paid $10 for the hour and half meeting. Our work not only includes results from 6 focus groups we conducted ourselves, but in addition, we incorporate comments from two focus groups conducted in the spring of 1994 by the National Cancer Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, as reported in Loughrey, Eisner, Doner and Winberg (1994).

Overall, we will report on the factors that first motivate consumers to attend to nutritional information. Then we look at factors influencing the continued use or discontinued use of this information. We find that consumers begin to use nutritional information if they see that information as helpful in achieving personal goals (such as losing weight) or social goals (such as raising healthy children). Several consumers indicated that they started to use the nutrition information asa result of gaining weight: "Well, actually I became health conscious when I gained extra weight. It was part of like a diet-exercise routine" (Female, City B). Also, when the shopper felt responsible for the health of a spouse or children, they began to start using nutritional information.: "I think I'm fairly health conscious primarily because I=m responsible for my kids and what my husband eats" (Female, City A). Consumers who continue to use the information over a period of time report not only they enjoy "feeling thin", but also the psychological feelings of "being a good mom". "When I cut down on the fat and started to eat more green things, I began to lose weight and feel better. " (Female City A).

However, the reasons for discontinuing use of the information are many. Some consumers mentioned they won't use the nutritional information if it means buying bad tasting food: " Yeah, I'm trying to switch to low fat variety foods that don't taste like cardboard. " (Female, City A). This concern about taste was particularly pronounced among people shopping for a family: "I look for the low sodium stuff too, as well as the low fat. Course they (husband and children) are so finicky, it's hard to get anything in them sometimes" (Female City A). Others reported that they were unwilling to make the more nutritional choices, if it means paying higher prices: "But I don't think I would pay extra for something that was more nutritious," (Female City A). Finally, others report that they are unwilling to give up variety for nutritional content: " It's really hard. It's like you know he wants to buy potato chips. I'm like, but can't we get pretzels instead, you know, it's stuff like that. But, he's getting burnt out on them a little bit. "(Female, City A).

From these focus groups a picture of the food shopper emerges. The food shopper views herself as purchasing agent for the entire family. As a result, she must purchase grocery items subject to the constraints of the food budget, the tastes and preferences of the family, and the nutritional needs of herself and the family.



Marlys J. Mason, University of Utah

Debra L. Scammon, University of Utah


The dietary supplement industry is booming with sales expected to reach $12 billion by 2001. Consumers take supplements for several reasons including maintenance of overall health, attention to specific health concerns, and enhancement of physical performance. Investments by consumers in consumption of supplements are both financial and behavioral. Interviews and focus groups were used to explore committed use of supplements by health-conscious consumers and athletes. Consumers often become interested in supplements through health -conscious peers, athletic trainers/professionals, and other social influences. Consumers also get information from labeling, advertising, the internet, news shows, and point-of-purchase materials-media which may present conflicting information. [Complete paper follows].



Debra L. Scammon, University of Utah
Marlys J. Mason, University of Utah


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26 | 1999

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