Social and Temporal Comparisons Made by Individuals Living With HIV Disease: Relationships to Adherence Behavior1


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    This research, which was conducted while the first author was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR), was funded by a National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research supplement to Grant R01-MH54935, Postdoctoral Training Grant T32-MH19985, and Center Grant P30-MH52776, all from the National Institute of Mental Health. We wish to thank Barry Bernstein, Jeff Miller, and the staff of the Infectious Disease Clinic of Froedtert Hospital for patient recruitment, Kristin Hackl, and Lynne Wagner-Raphael for data collection, and Jeffrey Kelly and Eric Benotsch for helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laura M. Bogart, 118 Kent Hall, Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242. E-mail:


When faced with the uncertainty of serious illness, individuals cope by comparing themselves to other people (social comparisons) and to other times in their lives (temporal comparisons). Participants were 44 individuals being treated for HIV who completed questionnaires measuring comparisons, adherence, and self-efficacy; 34 also completed qualitative interviews that were coded for comparisons. High levels of comparison to worse-off others, worse-off past selves, and better-off future selves were prevalent. Comparisons to worse-off others resulting in positive affect were associated with greater medication adherence; comparisons to better-off others resulting in negative affect were related to worse adherence. Self-efficacy to adhere mediated the relationship between comparison and adherence. Individuals who are uncertain about treatment outcomes may engage in social comparison to gain specific knowledge about adherence.