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Cyberchondria: A Distinct Set of Clinical Symptoms

Psychiatry Res; ePub 2018 Jan 3; Mathes, Norr, et al

A recent study provides further support for the identification of cyberchondria—a clinical phenomenon in which repeated Internet searches regarding medical information result in excessive concerns about physical health—as a distinct set of clinical symptoms that may pose a significant public health burden. This study replicated previous findings regarding the relationship between cyberchondria and health anxiety, and extended those findings to examine the extent to which health anxiety and cyberchondria may be differentially associated with public health outcomes, including impairment, quality of life, and service utilization. Community participants (n=462) recruited via online crowdsourcing completed a battery of self-report questionnaires assessing cyberchondria, health anxiety, and measures of public health outcomes. Researchers found:

  • Bifactor latent variable modeling indicated that cyberchondria was closely related to, yet importantly distinct from, health anxiety.
  • Moreover, when accounting for overlap with health anxiety, cyberchondria was associated with increased functional impairment and healthcare utilization.

Citation:

Mathes BM, Norr AM, Allan NP, Albanese BJ, Schmidt NB. Cyberchondria: Overlap with health anxiety and unique relations with impairment, quality of life, and service utilization. [Published online ahead of print January 3, 2018]. Psychiatry Res. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2018.01.002.

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