The British Journal of Psychiatry
Health anxiety in Australia: prevalence, comorbidity, disability and service use
Matthew Sunderland, Jill M. Newby, Gavin Andrews
  • Declaration of interest

    None.

Abstract

Background

Health anxiety is associated with high distress, disability and increased health service utilisation. However, there are relatively few epidemiological studies examining the extent of health anxiety or the associated sociodemographic and health risk factors in the general population.

Aims

To provide epidemiological data on health anxiety in the Australian population.

Method

Lifetime and current prevalence estimates, associations between comorbid disorders, psychological distress, impairment, disability and mental health service utilisation were generated using the Australian 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Results

Health anxiety affects approximately 5.7% of the Australian population across the lifespan and 3.4% met criteria for health anxiety at the time of the interview. Age, employment status, smoking status and comorbid physical conditions were significantly related to health anxiety symptoms. Health anxiety was associated with significantly more distress, impairment, disability and health service utilisation than that found in respondents without health anxiety.

Conclusions

Health anxiety is non-trivial; it affects a significant proportion of the population and further research and clinical investigation of health anxiety is required.

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