The impact of anxiety, depression, and cognitive factors associated with anxiety, on everyday risk taking behaviour : a thesis presented in partial fulfilments [sic] for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Research into risk taking behaviour (RTB) reveals that depression and anxiety (in particular) are associated with risk aversive behaviour, for many different types of risks, including gambling, simulated risk taking tasks, and everyday risks. There has, however, been little research into the relationship between cognitive factors associated with anxiety, and RTB. This is in spite of research in this area finding that perceived risk had a stronger relationship with a cognitive factor (worry) than with anxiety. The present research is investigating the everyday RTB associated with depression, anxiety, and cognitive factors associated with anxiety. Everyday risks are the type of risks being investigated as these are decisions people make on a daily basis that involve risk that cannot easily be avoided, and being overly avoidant of these risks can lead to negative consequences. This research is split into two studies, with the first study split into two sections. The first part of study one is the continued development of a measure of everyday RTB across multiple domains. All existing measures of everyday RTB either do not measure RTB in different domains, or have psychometric problems. Therefore, the development of a measure suitable for use in this research project is required. The second part of the first study is investigating the relationships of anxiety and depression level with everyday RTB, across multiple domains. Study one used three samples, New Zealand community and tertiary student samples, and an international internet sample. The second study is investigating the relationship between cognitions associated with anxiety (e.g. worry and metaworry) and everyday RTB. This study used two samples, a New Zealand tertiary student sample, and an international internet sample. Results from the development of the everyday risk taking measure indicate that the measure that underwent further development, the Everyday Risk Inventory – Expanded (ERI-E) is a reliable measure of everyday RTB, for general community samples in particular. Cronbach’s alpha values for the community sample were all above 0.7, but in some domains for the student sample were just below 0.6. Confirmatory factor analysis showed the fit for both the multiple domain and single domain models were moderate to good. Results from the second part of study 1 showed that the relationships of anxiety and depression, with everyday RTB were weak, with few significant results from either correlational or multiple regression analysis. In particular, depression has a minimal impact on RTB. Sociodemographic factors, particularly age, gender and income had more significant impacts on everyday RTB, with people on lower income, and older people, being risk averse. Gender differences varied between domains, with females significantly more risk averse for risks involving personal danger and risks to others. The concept that differences in people’s sense of power within their society affects RTB was supported, as in general socio-demographic differences associated with increased power (e.g. higher income and being male) led to people being less risk averse. Results from study two showed that everyday RTB has a stronger association with cognitive factors associated with anxiety than to anxiety level. In particular it has high correlations with worry and intolerance of uncertainty (IU). Structural equation modelling found that a model with cognitive factors leading to anxiety and differences in everyday RTB was an almost perfect fit for the model, and anxiety had no direct effect on RTB. It was also found that the relationship between everyday RTB and cognitive factors was stronger for high anxiety levels than low anxiety levels. Further research is required to determine the reason why cognitive factors associated with anxiety affect everyday RTB, rather than anxiety level. The present research contributes to knowledge in this area by showing that cognitive factors impact on RTB, rather than anxiety level. It also found that socio-demographic characteristics, particularly age, were more important in explaining differences in RTB than was found in previous research.
Anxiety, Depression, Risk-taking