Research: People with health anxiety are at higher risk of death from illness

Two Swedish people in a recent study were found to have similar backgrounds, both born in the same year and living in the same county. However, one of them, a diagnosed hypochondriac, was much more likely to die of a serious illness.

Researchers in Sweden studied people with and without hypochondriasis, also known as illness anxiety disorder. This diagnosis is given to people who are paranoid about being or becoming sick. The study, published this month in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, found that people diagnosed with hypochondriasis were 84 percent more likely than those without the disorder to die of various conditions, especially heart, blood, and lung diseases, as well as suicide.

It was also found that hypochondria can impact the quality of life, as people without hypochondriasis were more likely to be educated, married, and make more money than hypochondriacs.

Historically, previous research has found that people diagnosed with mental disorders are more likely to die at a younger age than those without the disorders. This prompted researcher David Mataix-Cols to study the potential impact of hypochondriacs.

Mataix-Cols, a neuroscience and psychiatry professor at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, said that many hypochondriacs remain paranoid even if doctors assure them they’re healthy. He also noted that hypochondriasis is underdiagnosed, so the risks of death could be even higher when accounting for undiagnosed cases.

Hypochondriasis can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication, but according to Mataix-Cols, “We have good treatments, and most people don’t get them.”

Overall, the study sheds light on the potential consequences of hypochondriasis and the need for increased attention and resources in caring for individuals with this disorder. It also highlights the importance of early diagnosis and intervention in mental health care.

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