Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 2015


Journal of Appalachian Studies 21:2 (2015), pp. 229-246.


Copyright © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used by permission.


Social identity and its association to culture, place, and health is an important, but understudied, area of research. One social group that illustrates this connection between place and identity is people living in Appalachia. This exploratory mixed-method study investigates the appropriateness of the self-concept of Ohio Appalachian adults with cancer as “Appalachian,” the context associated with that identity and its association with community identification, rural identity, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) status, demographic data, and clinical trial (CT) enrollment. Forty-nine adults with cancer residing in Appalachia were recruited. Participants were cancer patients who (1) were offered a randomized clinical cancer trial; and (2) lived in or were treated in one of the thirty-two rural Appalachian counties in Ohio. Forty-seven percent of participants identified themselves as Appalachian and were reluctant to self-identify as Appalachian because of negative stereotypes or uncertainty about the term. Furthermore, many participants endorsed their residence within Appalachia but not their own identity. Future studies should utilize a culturally grounded approach and community-based methodology to explore how residents of Appalachian communities define their community and self-identification in order to improve health in the region.