Does thinking about personal health risk increase anxiety?
Lister AM., Rode S., Farmer A., Salkovskis PM.
This study aimed to examine the effect on anxiety about health of a self-referent health questionnaire, in which people were asked to respond to questions about personal risk factors. Participants were randomly allocated into one of two experimental conditions (completing a self-referential assessment of their current health, or personality), with dependent variables measured before and after the experimental manipulation. Dependent variables included general and disease-specific (CHD, Stroke and Diabetes) anxiety and need for reassurance. Analysis of covariance suggested that participants who completed the health-focused questionnaire significantly increased in their anxiety ratings about Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes relative to those who completed the personality-focused assessment. There was no effect on general anxiety ratings. The results have important implications for measurement procedures commonly employed in health psychology, as they suggest that asking participants to rate factors related to health risk may lead to other psychological changes. It is important that subsequent research identify the duration of such effects.