Health Anxiety Alert: Worrying About One's Health May Lead To Heart Disease, Study Shows
Here's bad news for those who worry a lot about their health: While they may think that health anxiety can protect them from getting sick, the opposite might actually happen. A study suggests that worrying too much about one's health may result in heart disease.
According to The Guardian, people who unnecessarily fret over their health may be increasing their risk for heart disease. In the study that focused on 7,052 people over 12 years, Norweigian researchers found that respondents with health anxiety were 73 percent more likely to have heart illness than those without the condition. While anxiety has been known to be a risk factor for heart disease, it was the first time that experts specifically look at health anxiety. The condition refers to having persistent preoccupation with having a serious disease and consulting a doctor despite the absence of physical illness.
Initially, experts hypothesized that people with anxiety would reduce their risk of acquiring an illness because they tend to take better care of themselves. However, the findings suggest that it is better for them to seek help and proper diagnosis for their anxiety disorder. According to BBC, heart experts likewise advised anyone who feels they might have health anxiety to consult their doctor.
The participants of the study born between 1953 and 1957 filled in questionnaires about their lifestyle, health, and educational attainment. They also had a physical checkup between 1997 and 1999. Using a validated scale, health anxiety levels were assessed, and the top 10 percent of the sample consisting of 710 people had the condition. Researchers monitored the participants' health until the end of 2009. 234 of the sample had a heart attack or acute angina during the period. Additionally, the proportion of those having heart illnesses was twice as high among those who showed signs of health anxiety compared with participants who did not.
The study has its share of limitations; for instance, the co-existence of health anxiety with other mental health problems. As of writing, researchers can not draw firm cause and effect conclusions.