A threat is something that poses risk or danger to one's health. Perceived threat is an individual's cognitive assessment of the likelihood a danger will affect them and how bad it will be if it does. Perceptions of threat, accurate or not, are key to predicting adaptive health responses (AHRs)—responses that help protect the self from danger. From a health communication perspective, perceived threat helps explain individuals' responses to threat messages in fear appeals. Despite some early debate, most evidence supports the claims that threat messages increase perceived threat and perceived threat increases AHRs.

There are several fear appeal theories and models that rely on perceived threat to help explain AHRs. The protection motivation theory, the health belief model, the subjective expected utility model, the ...

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