Comparing non-specific physical symptoms in environmentally sensitive patients: prevalence, duration, functional status and illness behavior.
Published in: J Psychosom Res 2014; 76 (5): 405-413
Aim of study (acc. to author)
To assess IEI-EMF
, the participants were asked whether they were sensitive to mobile phone base stations
, mobile phones
, wireless internet or to electrical
devices (e.g. domestic appliances).
A list of nine items (chemical
substances, smells in general and in relation to scented detergents, noise
, light, various materials, color, temperature changes and cold or warm environment) was used to assess general environmental sensitivity
(GES) (also called idiopathic environmental intolerance
Functional status was assessed by general practitioners-registered prevalence
of prescriptions related to painkillers, tranquilizers (benzodiazepines
) and antidepressants. For general health
status and psychological
distress, participants completed the General Health
subscale of the RAND-36 Health Survey questionnaire
quality was assessed using a 10-item version of the Groningen Sleep
Endpoint/type of risk estimation
- symptoms of discomfort: 23 symptoms such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, memory or concentration problems, skin symptoms, heart palpitations, ear symptoms, neck or shoulder symptoms, back pain, muscular pain, abdominal/stomach pain
- sleep disturbances
- electromagnetic hypersensitivity
≥ 18 years
January 2011 - June 2011
Statistical analysis method:
- linear regression
- logistic regression
Conclusion (acc. to author)
Overall, 202 (3.5%) participants and 514 (8.8%) participants met the criteria for the IEI-EMF
and GES group respectively, while the rest of the participants (n=5073) formed the control group
. Seventy-seven (38%) of participants in the IEI-EMF
group also met the criteria for GES.
There was a higher prevalence
and medication prescriptions and longer symptom
duration among people with sensitivities
. Moreover, participants with GES were about twice as likely to consult alternative therapy
compared to the control group
; those with IEI-EMF
were more than three times as likely. Increasing number and duration of self-reported non-specific physical symptoms
were associated with functional impairment, illness behavior
, negative symptom
perceptions and prevalence
of GP-registered non-specific physical symptoms
in the examined groups.
Even after adjustment for medical and psychiatric morbidity
, environmentally sensitive individuals experienced poorer health
, increased illness behavior
and more severe non-specific physical symptoms
. The number and duration of self-reported non-specific physical symptoms
are important components of symptom
severity and are associated with characteristics similar to those of non-specific physical symptoms
in primary care.
The authors conclude that the substantial overlap between the sensitive groups strengthens the notion that different types of sensitivities
might be part of one, broader environmental illness.
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