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Psychosomatics. 2012 Jan-Feb;53(1):58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2011.05.006.

Parental-reported health anxiety symptoms in 5- to 7-year-old children: the Copenhagen Child Cohort CCC 2000.

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Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Aarhus University Hospital, Risskov, Denmark.



Hypochondriasis, now often designated as health anxiety, is important in terms of prevalence, levels of suffering, and health services cost in adults. Whereas the DSM-IV-TR suggests that the condition primarily begins in adulthood, retrospective reports point to a possible origin in childhood with onset as early as preschool age. However, little research has addressed health anxiety in children. In the present study we explored parental-reported health anxiety symptoms (HAS) and their association with physical and mental health in a population-based sample of 5- to 7-year-old children.


Parents of 1323 children (49.7% boys), recruited from the birth cohort: Copenhagen Child Cohort CCC 2000, completed questionnaires regarding their child's HAS, and physical and mental health. Associations were examined using multiple logistic regression analyses adjusted for concurrent chronic physical disease.


HAS were present in 17.6% and present 'a lot' (categorized as considerable HAS) in 2.4% of the children. Children with considerable HAS demonstrated more physical health problems and internalizing disorders than children with no or non-considerable HAS, but in the majority (71.9%) no associated chronic physical disease or other mental disorder was reported. In a subsample of children with functional somatic symptoms (FSS), impairing FSS were more likely among children who reported HAS.


The findings suggest that HAS present as primary complaints early in life and are associated with impairing child health problems in the area of FSS and internalizing disorders. These aspects may be important to understand and also to prevent the development of severe health anxiety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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