Supernatural explanatory models of health and illness and healthcare use in China among men who have sex with men

Stephen W. Pan, Richard M. Carpiano, M. Kumi Smith, Jason J. Ong, Hongyun Fu, Wenting Huang, Weiming Tang, Joseph D. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


People’s beliefs in supernatural explanatory models of health and illness–beliefs in divine and/or supernatural forces to inform how they perceive, interpret, and respond to health and illness–may have important implications for their use of healthcare services, especially among individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES). However, the relevance of such research for contexts with strong Confucian and Buddhist traditions and sexual minority subpopulations remains unclear. We conducted a nation-wide survey in China of 503 men who have sex with men (MSM) to test hypotheses examining how supernatural beliefs impact commitment to a primary healthcare provider and testing history for HIV and syphilis. We also tested hypotheses regarding how SES may moderate such effects. Results indicate that strength of supernatural beliefs is associated with less commitment to a primary care provider and lower likelihood of HIV testing, particularly among men with lower educational attainment. However, among men with low income, supernatural belief was associated with higher likelihood of testing for HIV and syphilis. Belief in supernatural explanatory models of health and illness may have substantial influence on healthcare use among MSM in China. As religion and spirituality evolves within China, additional research concerning supernatural beliefs and healthcare use is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-96
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • fatalism
  • fundamental cause theory
  • gay men
  • Religion
  • spirituality

Cite this