Epidemiological study (observational study)

Sense and sensibility in the context of radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure.

Published in: CR physique 2010; 11 (9-10): 576-584

Aim of study (acc. to author)

A cohort study was conducted in Switzerland to investigate the association between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields exposure and non-specific health complaints in electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) individuals.

Further details

Furthermore, following topics were examined: to compare the self-declared EHS status at baseline with the respective jugdement one year later, and to compare socio-demographic factors, exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic field and health situation of EHS individuals with the rest of the study population.
Non-specific health complaints were assessed by following questionnaires: von Zerssen somatic complaint list, Headache Impact Test, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Swiss Health Survey 2007 and a question from the European Health Interview Survey Questionnaire.

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Type of risk estimation:
  • prevalence



Exposure groups

Group 1 distance to closest mobile phone base station
Group 2 predicted residential exposure to fixed state transmitters
Group 3 predicted total environmental far-field exposure (all sources)
Group 4 self-reported use of mobile phones
Group 5 operator registered use of mobile phones
Group 6 self-reported use of cordless phones


  • Group:
    • men
    • women
  • Age: 30–60 years
  • Characteristics: Swiss residents or people living in Switzerland for at least 5 years
  • Observation period: 2008, follow-up in 2009
  • Study location: Switzerland (region of Basel)
  • Data source: QUALIFEX study

Study size

Total 4,000
Eligible 3,763
Participants 1,375
Participation rate 37 %
Other: 1122 participants in follow-up (82 %)
Statistical analysis method:
  • linear regression
  • logistic regression
  • Chi-square test
( adjustment:
  • age
  • sex
  • residential area
  • education
  • BMI, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, marital status, nightshift work, use of sleeping drugs, general attitude towards the environment

Conclusion (acc. to author)

8.1 % of the study population declared to be electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) in 2008 (2009: 7.3 %); and 13% attributed own symptoms to radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in 2008 (2009: 14.3 %) but did not declare to be hypersensitive (called attributers). However, only a minority of the EHS individuals and the attributers made the same declaration in 2008 and 2009. The radiofrequency exposure situation of EHS individuals was comparable to the rest of the population except ownership of cordless phones. Health disturbances were considerably more prevalent in the EHS group than in the attributer group and even more than in the rest of the population. Most importantly, the authors did not find evidence that various symptom scores were associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in the electromagnetic hypersensitive group.
The authors concluded that they could not confirm an association between radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in the everyday environment and health disturbances for EHS individuals or for people attributing own symptoms to radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure.

Study funded by

  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

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