Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Computers in Human Behavior


Drawing from prior fear-appeal and information seeking research, this study explored how perceived threat and self-efficacy predicted college students’ use and perceptions of online mental health resources. Results showed that perceived vulnerability was a modest, yet robust predictor of visiting any Internet website and joining an online support group, while self-efficacy modestly predicted greater perceived usefulness and trust for online support groups. Although numerous interactions emerged between self-efficacy and perceived threat, the impact of these relationships on use and perceptions of these services varied significantly. In particular, at higher levels of self-efficacy, perceived severity negatively predict use of online services yet also positively predicted trust in these resources. Furthermore, results showed that vulnerability was only associated with favorable judgments of web services at lower levels of efficacy. Overall, the findings suggest that self-efficacy and perceived threat play a small, yet significant role in explaining online mental health information seeking outcomes; however, the exact nature by which these factors operate together to influence one’s use and larger impressions such resources remains unclear.

Published Citation

McKinley, C. J., & Ruppel, E. (2014). Exploring how perceived threat and self-efficacy contribute to college students’ use and perceptions of online mental health resources. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 101-109.