Today: March 02, 2024
Today: March 02, 2024

In hypochondria paradox, Swedish study finds a higher death rate in those who fear serious illness

Share This
In hypochondria paradox, Swedish study finds a higher death rate in those who fear serious illness
December 13, 2023

A large Swedish study has uncovered a paradox about people diagnosed with an excessive fear of serious illness: They tend to die earlier than people who aren’t hypervigilant about health concerns.

Hypochondriasis, now called illness anxiety disorder, is a rare condition with symptoms that go beyond average health worries. People with the disorder are unable to shake their fears despite normal physical exams and lab tests. Some may change doctors repeatedly. Others may avoid medical care.

“Many of us are mild hypochondriacs. But there are also people on the other extreme of the spectrum who live in a perpetual state of worry and suffering and rumination about having a serious illness," said Dr. Jonathan E. Alpert of Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

People with the disorder are suffering and “it’s important to take it seriously and to treat it," said Alpert, who was not involved in the new study. Treatment can involve cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, education and sometimes antidepressant medication.

The researchers found that people with the diagnosis have an increased risk of death from both natural and unnatural causes, particularly suicide. Chronic stress and its impact on the body could explain some of the difference, the authors wrote.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, addressed “a clear gap in the literature,” said David Mataix-Cols of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who led the research. “We got lucky,” he said, because the Swedish classification system for diseases has a separate code for hypochondriasis, allowing data analysis on thousands of people over 24 years, 1997-2020.

Older research had suggested the risk of suicide might be lower for people with the condition, but “our hunch, based on clinical experience, was that this would be incorrect,” Mataix-Cols said. In the study, the risk of suicide death was four times higher for the people with the diagnosis.

They looked at 4,100 people diagnosed with hypochondriasis and matched them with 41,000 people similar in age, sex and county of residence. They used a measurement called person years, which accounts for the number of people and how long they were tracked.

Overall death rates were higher in the people with hypochondriasis, 8.5 versus 5.5 per 1,000 person years. People with the condition died younger than the others, a mean age of 70 versus 75. Their risk of death from circulatory and respiratory diseases was higher. Cancer was an exception; the risk of death was about the same.

Referring an excessively anxious patient to mental health professionals takes care, said Alpert, who leads the American Psychiatric Association’s council on research. Patients can be offended, because they feel they're being accused of imagining symptoms.

“It takes a great deal of respect and sensitivity conveyed to patients that this itself is a kind of condition, that it has a name,” Alpert said. "And, fortunately, there are good treatments.” ___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Amid infighting, Michigan Republicans set to deliver Trump another win

By Nathan Layne (Reuters) - Republicans will meet in Michigan on Saturday amid simmering internal turmoil to choose their presidential nominee, with Donald Trump expected to sweep the delegates at

FIA president: Red Bull boss Christian Horner controversy is ‘damaging the sport’ - report

The president of Formula 1’s governing body tells the Financial Times the controversy around Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is damaging the sport but that the FIA won’t conduct its own inquiry unless it receives a complaint

Gaza ceasefire talks to resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian security sources say

CAIRO (Reuters) - Gaza ceasefire negotiations are due to resume in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said on Saturday.

Hard-liners are leading in Iran’s parliamentary election which may have witnessed record-low turnout

A day after parliamentary election concluded in Iran, hard-liners are leading in initial vote counting in the capital of Tehran, state media reported

Russian drone strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa kills 3

Three people were killed when a Russian drone hit an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa overnight, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said Saturday morning

Two buildings damaged, people evacuated after 'incident' in Russia's St Petersburg, governor says

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - Two buildings were damaged and people were evacuated in Russia's St Petersburg on Saturday morning after local residents reported a loud explosion that blew out windows.


Oregon lawmakers pass bill to recriminalize drug possession

The Oregon Legislature has passed a bill that recriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs

Medical groups urge Alabama Supreme Court to revisit frozen embryo ruling

Groups representing Alabama doctors and hospitals are urging the state Supreme Court to revisit a decision equating frozen embryos to children

Dengue cases in Peru are surging, fueled by mosquitoes and high temperatures brought by El Niño

Peru is suffering a growing problem of dengue cases

Marine general taking steps to return to full duty as commandant several months after heart attack

Defense officials say Gen. Eric Smith is taking steps to return to full duty as commandant of the Marine Corps, about four months after being sidelined due to a heart attack

- Advertisement -
Advertisement: Limited Time Offer