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J Anxiety Disord. 2016 Oct;43:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.07.009. Epub 2016 Jul 31.

The curious case of cyberchondria: A longitudinal study on the reciprocal relationship between health anxiety and online health information seeking.

Author information

1
Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address: f.tepoel@uva.nl.
2
Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam, Post Office Box 15791, 1001 NG Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3
Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

The current study is the first to longitudinally investigate the reciprocal relationship between online health information seeking and health anxiety, i.e., cyberchondria. Expectations were that health anxious individuals who go online to find health information, experience an increase in health anxiety, which in turn will reinforce online seeking. A 4-wave longitudinal survey study among 5322 respondents aged 16-93 was conducted. Our results showed that individuals who are more health anxious than others, search online for health information more. Moreover, the results provided initial evidence for the expected reciprocal relationship between health anxiety and online health information seeking in respondents with non-clinical levels of health anxiety at the start of the study. However, this reciprocal relationship could not be found in a subsample of clinically health anxious individuals. Although for these individuals online health information seeking did not seem to exacerbate health anxiety levels, it might still serve as a maintaining factor of clinical health anxiety.

KEYWORDS:

Cyberchondria; Health anxiety; Internet; Online health information seeking; Random intercept cross-lagged panel model

PMID:
27497667
DOI:
10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.07.009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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