Are you the type of person who tries to imagine every worst-case health scenario to try to prepare yourself in case something bad does happen? Turns out, your forward thinking might actually be making you sick.
Whether you call it hypochondria or “health anxiety,” around 1 to 2 percent of us have it. (Is it just me, or does that seem scarily low? Or is the fact that I’m assuming hypochondria rates are higher than they are just going to make us all sick?)
A large-scale study in Norway looked at participants’ levels of anxiety and their actual health, and — not to give you something else to worry about — the results aren’t great. For example, those with high levels of health anxiety were 70 percent more likely to develop heart disease. That correlation is so significant that researchers concluded that anxiety should be considered a risk factor for heart disease in itself.
But before you panic too much, know that the study wasn’t perfect — it didn’t have much in the way of ethnic diversity, nor did it control from other heart disease risk factors like diet and exercise.
It also didn’t actually look into why health anxiety resulted in higher rates of heart disease. So those of us who might be concerned about the findings and be comforted knowing why this relationship exists are pretty much out of luck.