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Effects of Psychopathology on the Characteristics of Individuals with Self-reported Electromagnetic Field Hypersensitivity

Mei-Chih Meg Tseng, Yi-Ping Lin, Tsun-Jen Cheng

Objective: Individuals with electro-magnetic hypersensitivity have been re-ported to have characteristics overlapped with some psychiatric conditions, but the relationship between psychiatric morbidity and electro-magnetic hypersensitivity remains unclear. Here we intended to study the effects of psychopathology on the characteristics of electromagnetic hypersensitivity in a randomized sample of indi-viduals with idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromag-netic fields (IEI-EMF). Methods: We identified individuals in Taiwan with self-reported IEI-EMF (n = 170) in a nationwide telephone survey (n = 1,197) on the perception of risks from various environmental agents. The telephone interview questions contained demography, presence of catastrophic illness, self-reported health condition, functional impairment, medical utilization, and risk perception from 13 environmental agents. Individuals with psychiatric conditions were iden-tified using the Brief Symptom Rating Scale-5 (n = 190). Of them, 49 persons were comorbid with self-reported IEI-EMF. Results: We found that individuals with IEI-EMF shared features with those with psychiatric conditions including inability to work and impairment of daily activities. Co-occurring psychopathology signifi-cantly increased the severity of poor self-reported health condition, and the degree of sensitivity to EMF among individuals with IEI-EMF. More severe degree of psychopathology was associated with significantly increased medical utilization (p < 0.001), non-employment (p < 0.001), and impairment in daily activity (p < 0.001), whereas the severe degree of electrosensitivity was significantly associated with non-employment only (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Commonly reported features of IEI-EMF were mainly predicted by the degree of psychopathology instead of the degree of sensitivity to EMF. Treating anxiety and depression in individuals with IEI-EMF may help improve these clinical features.
Key Word electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, environmental illness, psychopathology
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