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J Psychosom Res. 2006 Apr;60(4):357-63.

Number of bodily symptoms predicts outcome more accurately than health anxiety in patients attending neurology, cardiology, and gastroenterology clinics.

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Division of Psychiatry, Medical School, University of Manchester, UK.



In consecutive new outpatients, we aimed to assess whether somatization and health anxiety predicted health care use and quality of life 6 months later in all patients or in those without demonstrable abnormalities.


On the first clinic visit, participants completed the Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ), the Health Anxiety Questionnaire (HAQ), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Outcome was assessed as: (a) the number of medical consultations over the subsequent 6 months, extracted from medical records, and (b) Short-Form Health Survey 36 (SF36) physical component score 6 months after index clinic visit.


A total of 295 patients were recruited (77% response rate), and medical consultation data were available for 275. The number of bodily symptoms was associated with both outcomes in linear fashion (P<.001), and this was independent of anxiety and depression. Similar associations were found in people with or without symptoms due to demonstrable structural abnormalities. Health anxiety was associated only with health-related quality of life in patients with symptoms explained by demonstrable abnormalities.


The number of bodily symptoms and degree of health anxiety have different patterns of association with outcome, and these need to be considered in revising the diagnoses of somatization and hypochondriasis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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