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Soz Praventivmed. 2006;51(4):202-9.

The prevalence of symptoms attributed to electromagnetic field exposure: a cross-sectional representative survey in Switzerland.

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Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland.



To investigate health risk perception as well as to assess the prevalence of self-reported symptoms attributed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and other environmental exposures in the general population of Switzerland.


Between May and June 2004, telephone interviews of a representative sample of the Swiss population (n=2048, >14 years old) about: (1) health symptoms attributed to five environmental factors (one of which was EMF), (2) health risk perception related to 12 environmental risk factors (five of which were different EMF sources).


We found a prevalence of 5% (95% CI 4-6%) for electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) in our study sample. The most common health complaints among EHS individuals were sleep disorders (43%) and headaches (34%), which were mostly attributed to power lines and mobile phone handsets. In addition, 53 percent (95% CI 51-55%) were worried about adverse health effects from EMF, without attributing their own health symptoms to them.


The large proportion of the population who is concerned or attributes own symptoms to EMF may cause societal conflicts given the ubiquity of EMF in our everyday life.

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