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Three decades of increase in health anxiety : Systematic review and meta-analysis of birth cohort changes in university student samples from 1985 to 2017

Kosic, Amanda ; Lindholm, Peo ; Järvholm, Kajsa LU ; Hedman-Lagerlöf, Erik and Axelsson, Erland (2020) In Journal of Anxiety Disorders 71.
Abstract

Health anxiety can be defined as a multifaceted trait that is primarily characterised by a fear of, or preoccupation with, serious illness. Whereas low levels of health anxiety can be helpful, clinically significant levels are associated with personal suffering and substantial societal costs. As general anxiety is probably on the rise, and the Internet has increased access to health-related information, it is commonly speculated that health anxiety has increased over the past decades. We tested this hypothesis based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of birth cohort mean health anxiety in Western university student samples from 1985 to 2017. Sixty-eight studies with 22 413 student participants were included. The primary analysis... (More)

Health anxiety can be defined as a multifaceted trait that is primarily characterised by a fear of, or preoccupation with, serious illness. Whereas low levels of health anxiety can be helpful, clinically significant levels are associated with personal suffering and substantial societal costs. As general anxiety is probably on the rise, and the Internet has increased access to health-related information, it is commonly speculated that health anxiety has increased over the past decades. We tested this hypothesis based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of birth cohort mean health anxiety in Western university student samples from 1985 to 2017. Sixty-eight studies with 22 413 student participants were included. The primary analysis indicated that the mean score on the Illness Attitudes Scales had increased by 4.61 points (95 % CI: 1.02, 8.20) from 1985 to 2017. The percentage of general population Internet users in the study year of data collection was not predictive of student mean health anxiety. In conclusion, this study corroborates the hypothesis of an increase in health anxiety, at least in the student population, over the past decades. However, this increase could not be linked to the introduction of the Internet.

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author
; ; ; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Birth cohort, Cross-temporal meta-analysis, Generations, Health anxiety, Hypochondriasis, Students
in
Journal of Anxiety Disorders
volume
71
article number
102208
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • pmid:32172210
  • scopus:85081273408
ISSN
0887-6185
DOI
10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102208
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3d43414d-646a-480a-85ed-6bc850266e03
date added to LUP
2020-03-31 14:36:02
date last changed
2020-10-27 02:09:47
@article{3d43414d-646a-480a-85ed-6bc850266e03,
  abstract     = {<p>Health anxiety can be defined as a multifaceted trait that is primarily characterised by a fear of, or preoccupation with, serious illness. Whereas low levels of health anxiety can be helpful, clinically significant levels are associated with personal suffering and substantial societal costs. As general anxiety is probably on the rise, and the Internet has increased access to health-related information, it is commonly speculated that health anxiety has increased over the past decades. We tested this hypothesis based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of birth cohort mean health anxiety in Western university student samples from 1985 to 2017. Sixty-eight studies with 22 413 student participants were included. The primary analysis indicated that the mean score on the Illness Attitudes Scales had increased by 4.61 points (95 % CI: 1.02, 8.20) from 1985 to 2017. The percentage of general population Internet users in the study year of data collection was not predictive of student mean health anxiety. In conclusion, this study corroborates the hypothesis of an increase in health anxiety, at least in the student population, over the past decades. However, this increase could not be linked to the introduction of the Internet.</p>},
  author       = {Kosic, Amanda and Lindholm, Peo and Järvholm, Kajsa and Hedman-Lagerlöf, Erik and Axelsson, Erland},
  issn         = {0887-6185},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Journal of Anxiety Disorders},
  title        = {Three decades of increase in health anxiety : Systematic review and meta-analysis of birth cohort changes in university student samples from 1985 to 2017},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102208},
  doi          = {10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102208},
  volume       = {71},
  year         = {2020},
}