Health-related knowledge, beliefs and self-efficacy in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

Annie W. Lin, Jamie S. Dollahite, Jeffery Sobal, Marla E. Lujan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION: Do health-related knowledge, beliefs and self-efficacy differ between women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? SUMMARY ANSWER: Women with PCOS felt at greater risk for adverse health outcomes, yet believed a healthy lifestyle was less beneficial to prevent weight gain relative to a comparison group. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Diet and physical activity are often used to treat PCOS, but there are high attrition rates and less engagement in self-help methods. It is unclear whether there are unique psychosocial considerations in PCOS that should be incorporated into these interventions. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This cross-sectional study enrolled 475 women with (N = 255) and without PCOS (N = 220). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Female participants were recruited through paper and web-based advertisements across the US (mean age: 28.1 ± 5.4 years). Participants were either diagnosed with PCOS by a healthcare professional (PCOS group) or had self-reported regular menstrual cycles (comparison group). A reliable and valid online instrument about health-related knowledge, beliefs and self-efficacy was administered to these participants. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Most women with PCOS had a basic understanding of nutrition (96%), but had misconceptions about diagnostic criteria for PCOS (¥86%). PCOS was associated with greater perceived susceptibility for disease and weight gain and poorer perceived control over these health outcomes (all P < 0.05), in relation to the comparison group. Women with PCOS also perceived fewer benefits of healthy behaviors on weight gain (P = 0.03) with less than half of the PCOS group attempting to follow government diet recommendations (47%). There were no differences in the self-efficacy of dietary behaviors between groups. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: It is likely that participant self-selection occurred due to the nature of recruitment in this study and results may have limited generalizability since most participants identified as Caucasian. Additionally, it is unclear whether some results may be clinically meaningful due to small effect sizes. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: These findings support that behavioral interventions should incorporate the unique psychosocial considerations associated with PCOS to encourage patient participation in lifestyle interventions. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This manuscript was partially supported by Cornell University Human Ecology Alumni Association and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Association. The authors have no competing interests. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT01859663.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper was partially funded by Cornell University Human Ecology Alumni Association and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Association. The funders had no role in the design, data collection and interpretation, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017.


  • counseling
  • diet
  • PCOS
  • physical activity
  • survey


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