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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Feb 1;543(Pt A):432-438. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.038. Epub 2015 Nov 18.

Nocebo responses to high-voltage power lines: Evidence from a prospective field study.

Author information

1
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
2
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
3
Municipal Health Service, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
4
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; KLM Health Services, Schiphol, The Netherlands.
5
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Electronic address: drm.timmermans@vumc.nl.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Experimental studies suggest that nocebo responses might occur after exposure to equipment emitting electromagnetic fields such as high voltage power lines (HVPLs) or mobile phone base stations.

OBJECTIVES:

The present study investigates to what extent health responses to a new HVPL can be explained by beliefs of residents regarding the health effects of HVPLs.

METHODS:

We used a quasi-experimental prospective field study design with two pretests during the construction of a new HVPL, and two posttests after it has been put into operation. Residents living near (0-300 m, n=229; 300-500 m, n=489) and farther away (500-2000 m, n=536) filled out questionnaires about their health and their beliefs about the negative health effects of power lines. Longitudinal mediation models were applied to investigate to what extent these beliefs could explain a change in reported symptoms after the new line was put into operation.

RESULTS:

Significant (p<.01) indirect effects were found for proximity on the increase in reported cognitive (R(2)=0.41) and somatic (R(2)=0.79) symptoms after the power line was put into operation through an increase in the belief that power lines causes health effects. The direct effects of proximity on an increase in reported symptoms were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings suggest that increases in reported health complaints after a new HVPL has been put into operation can be explained by nocebo mechanisms. Future field studies are needed to know whether our findings extend to other environmental health issues in a community.

KEYWORDS:

Electromagnetic fields; Environmental health risk; Nocebo; Power lines; Symptom reports

PMID:
26599143
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.038
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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