Background: Perceived threat is particularly important in health-related behaviors. The aim of this study was to explain the perceived threat of unhealthy and unsafe eating behaviors in Iranian adolescent girls.
Materials and Methods: In this qualitative study, directed content analysis was used and participants were selected by purposeful sampling. Data were collected using focus groups and semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews with 60 girl students of the eighth grade who studied in the government schools of Shiraz City, Iran in 2019. Sampling continued until data saturation was achieved. Data were analyzed by Graneheim and Lundman's approach of conventional content.
Results: From the data analysis, five categories were drawn. Perceived susceptibility comprised of (1) disease risk-increasing factors and (2) disease risk-decreasing factors and perceived severity consisted of (3) individual, (4) familial, and (5) social consequences of the disease. The perceived susceptibility consisted of the subcategories, namely, biological susceptibility or body's protective mechanisms, individual behaviors, and risky or protective environmental factors for food and health safety. Perceived severity included the subcategories: physical, mental, educational, and medical problems for the individual, psychosocial problems, and imposing heavy treatment costs on family, economic, and social problems for the community.
Conclusion: The perceived threat of unhealthy and unsafe eating behaviors in adolescents includes perceptions of disease risk increasing and disease risk-decreasing factors, as well as personal, familial, and social consequences following disease development. Understanding these perceptions can help adolescents engage in health-promoting eating behaviors.