An Examination of How People Appraise and Manage Health-Related Financial Uncertainty

Lynsey K. Romo, Charee Mooney Thompson, Patience Ben-Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While health care is one of the largest stressors across all incomes and political affiliations, it is unclear how people with health-related financial uncertainty appraise and manage this ambiguity. Using the lens of Uncertainty Management Theory (UMT) and a thematic analysis of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 17 individuals facing financial and health struggles, we uncovered how intersecting financial and medical uncertainty exacerbated participants’ medical worries, worsening and compromising their mental and physical health. Additionally, we revealed how participants managed health-related financial uncertainty through seeking social support, seeking information to reduce financial burden, enacting financial concessions, making health sacrifices, avoiding information and thoughts about health costs, and adapting to chronic financial uncertainty. This study extends UMT by foregrounding the ways individuals’ environmental resources (i.e., limited financial means) can jeopardize tending to their health, illustrating how uncertainty management is connected not only to communication strategies but also to health behaviors, such as tapering or skipping medications or procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-943
Number of pages9
JournalHealth communication
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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