When Different Message Frames Motivate Different Routes to the Same Health Outcome

Mary Gerend*, Melissa A. Shepherd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Message framing is an effective strategy for promoting health behavior. Purpose: We examined the relative effectiveness of framed messages that simultaneously promoted two different health behaviors—eating a calcium-rich diet and taking calcium supplements—for preventing osteoporosis. Because those behaviors are associated with different perceptions of risk, we predicted that gain- and loss-framed messages would have opposite effects. Methods: In two experiments, participants (N1 = 69; N2 = 219) were randomly assigned to a gain- or loss-framed message presenting two osteoporosis prevention behaviors. Results: A gain-framed advantage was observed for dietary calcium consumption, but the opposite—a loss-framed advantage—was observed for use of calcium supplements. Message frame interacted with baseline calcium consumption behavior for some outcomes. Conclusions: Both gain- and loss-framed messages increased osteoporosis prevention behavior, but their relative effectiveness depended on the type of behavior. Framed messages can have opposite effects on different behaviors used to achieve a common health goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Adolescent and young adult women
  • Calcium consumption
  • Message framing
  • Osteoporosis prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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