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Gender and life-stage dependent reactions to the risk of radioactive contamination: A survey experiment in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Joel Rasmussen
Jens Ewald
Thomas Sterner
Published in PLoS ONE
Volume 15
Issue 4
Pages 1-17
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 1-17
Language en
Keywords radiation exposure, risk management, gender and life-stage factors
Subject categories Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Economics


This article proposes and examines gender and life-stage factors as determinants of public worry and risk avoidance in a nuclear fallout scenario. Drawing on a survey (N 2,291) conducted in Sweden, the article demonstrates statistically significant results that women as well as parents with children at home are more likely to express high levels of worry for radiation exposure and have a preference to move away from a fallout area despite assurance of successful remediation. Moreover, a negative relationship is shown between age and both worry for radiation exposure and preference to move. These novel results from Northern Europe thus support a life-stage framing of public risk attitudes. As radiation physicists develop new methods showing that women and children are at higher risk of cancer than other groups at the same radiation exposure, we may actually see the precaution among women and parents as a regulating mechanism for the higher objective risk they face. The results are moreover in agreement with studies of public risk reactions in Japan, creating a strong knowledge base that human-induced radiation pollution is largely an intolerable risk to the public. Considering the public opinion, managing an intolerable risk through risk mitigation by remediation alone is likely insufficient in many cases. A viable strategy would offer a range of social support options that enable individual decision-making and the protection of risk groups.

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