Why hypochondriacs could be thinking themselves ill


Hypochondriacs could be doing what they fear most, and making themselves unwell, according to a new study.
The so-called “worried well” have been found to be really making themselves sick to such an extent that they are increasing their risk of developing heart disease.
New research findings come following a population study carried out in Norway with 7,052 people.
Researchers were looking at whether anxiety over health was linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Participants, who were all middle aged, were asked to fill in questionnaires about what concerns they had about their health.
Their heart health was then monitored over a time period of 12 years.
The study found those who were hypochondriacs had a risk, which was increased by almost three quarters, of developing heart disease compared to those who did not have similar anxieties.
However further study would be necessary to say with absolute certainty that hypochondria directly led to the development of heart disease.
Scientists took on board other risk factors, including whether participants were overweight, smoked, had high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.
While the possibility is that other health issues may have contributed both to the levels of anxiety and to increased risk of heart disease, the study did show that suffering from anxiety could affect physical health.
The study was carried out by researchers from University of Bergen, Sandviken University Hospital, Haraldsplass Deaconal University Hospital, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Itlooked at people who had been born between 1953 and 1958 and asked them to fill in the survey in 1997.
A physical examination was also carried out, which included checks on height, weight and blood pressure.
Participants were asked to use a scale, called the Whitley Index, to answer 14 questions, which they gave a score of one to five, covering such issues as how concerned they were that they might develop an illness.
They were followed for up to 12 years to 2009 to look for the development of heart disease.
The results were that people who worried over illnesses they did not actually have were much more likely to go on to develop heart disease.
These latest findings could indicate that rather than having a good impact, health anxiety did not protect people from developing heart disease as a result of them perhaps going to their doctor more frequently, it actually seemed to have the opposite effect and increased the risk.