Protection Against Air Pollution: Which Factors Influence Self-protection and Environmentally Friendly Behaviour Against Urban Air Pollution in Taiwan
Weerd, A.S. van der
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In Taiwan, little is known about the socio-behavioural drivers of self-protective behaviours against urban air pollution, nor the socio-spatial context in which they take place, hampering effective risk communication. The current study first assessed the socio-spatial context of air pollution in Taiwan, to then test a newly developed health-behavioural model predicting self-protective and environmentally behaviour among urban residents in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. Findings of a qualitative data analysis indicated that despite decreasing trends of urban air pollution since the early 2000’s, national air quality standards are often not met and health risks are still severe. Although a direct relation between neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) and health risk could not be assumed, those employed in heavy industry, children and aboriginal Taiwanese were found to be at increased risk. Additionally, findings indicated Kaohsiung having worse air quality and lower average SES than Taichung and subsequently Taipei, resulting in increased public health risk from urban air pollution. This discrepancy has several socio-political, economic and climatological drivers, and was described by respondents as the North-South divide. Despite growing governmental efforts to abate air pollution, public concern in Taiwan has spurred from 2011 onwards. A self-organized grassroots movement has increasingly mobilized the public in both offline and online platforms. Respondents indicated residents in Taichung being more concerned and involved than those in Taipei and subsequently Kaohsiung. Then, to test the proposed behavioural model, a survey was conducted yielding 699 participants in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung combined. Findings of statistical analyses indicated Taiwanese urban residents are more highly concerned about air pollution than found in other studies, and the developed model was partially supported. Age, feeling self-efficacious, having high perception of risk severity, reliance on governmental information sources and personal health experiences predicted self-protective intentions, whereas outcome efficacy and other demographic variables did not. In turn, self-efficacy, perceived positive outcomes, environmental risk perception and governmental trust predicted environmentally friendly intentions to abate urban air pollution. Respondents from the three cities also differed significantly in their personal experience, risk perception, governmental trust and behavioural intentions, suggesting Kaohsiung residents being less concerned about urban air pollution than those in Taichung and Taipei. Further theoretical and practical implications are discussed, and recommendations for further research are suggested.