Objectives: To determine the prevalence of significant health anxiety (hypochondriasis) in patients aged 16 - 75 in cardiology, respiratory medicine, neurological, endocrine and gastrointestinal clinics in general hospitals in London, Middlesex and North Nottinghamshire.
Method: The Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI) (short form) was administered to patients attending the five clinics over a 21 month period and all those who scored 20 or more invited to take part in a further assessment for a randomised controlled trial. Results: Of 43,205 patients attending the clinics 28,991 (67.1%) were assessed and of these, after exclusion of ineligible patients 5747 (19.8%) had significant health anxiety. 444 subsequently agreed to take part in a randomised controlled trial of treatment. The prevalence levels varied by clinic with neurology (24.7%) having the highest prevalence followed by respiratory medicine (20.9%), gastroenterology (19.5%), cardiology (19.1%), and endocrinology (17.5%).
Conclusion: Abnormal health anxiety is common and a significant problem in those attending medical clinics and deserves greater awareness.