Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences


Socioeconomic health disparities in the United States have remained largely unchanged for decades. This remains the case even for preventable illness and disease. Current health behavior theories and interventions rely on the perception of control over one’s fate to achieve desired behavior. In low-income and other marginalized populations, however, hopelessness and the perception of having limited control may make interventions less effective. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the role of the locus of control (LOC) as defined by the degree to which one believes outcomes are determined by external forces such as chance or authority figures as an adaptive response to poverty. Using cross-sectional survey methodology, 136 U.S. adult participants were recruited through snowball sampling to anonymously complete measures of the Multidimensional Locus of Control, the Health Promoting Lifestyles II, the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, and a demographic questionnaire. Hierarchical regression and bivariate analyses were used to test the hypotheses. Study results found that chance LOC mediated the relationship between socioeconomics and health lifestyles, while it was as associated with less healthy lifestyle choices than external authority figures (powerful others). Internal LOC was not found to provide any psychological protection from anxiety and depression for low socioeconomic populations. Recommendations included the need for additional studies to understand the role of LOC as it relates to health beliefs, behavior, and psychological well-being of marginalized populations.