Objectives: The prevalence of medically unexplained symptoms attributed to exposure to electromagnetic fields is still largely unknown. Previous studies have investigated reported hypersensitivity to electricity in selected groups recruited from workplaces or outpatient clinics. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of self-reported hypersensitivity to electric or magnetic fields in the general population and to describe characteristics of the group reporting such hypersensitivity with regard to demographics, other complaints, hypersensitivities, and traditional allergies.
Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted in 1997 among 15,000 men and women between 19 and 80 years of age in Stockholm County. The response rate was 73%.
Results: One and a half percent of the respondents reported hypersensitivity to electric or magnetic fields. Prevalence was highest among women and in the 60- to 69-year age group. The hypersensitive group reported all symptoms, allergies, and other types of hypersensitivities included in the survey (as well as being disturbed by various factors in the home) to a significantly greater extent than the rest of the respondents. No specific symptom profile set off the hypersensitive group from the rest of the respondents.
Conclusions: The results should be interpreted with caution. But they suggest that there is widespread concern among the general population about risks to health posed by electric and magnetic fields. More research is warranted to explore ill health among people reporting hypersensitivity to electric or magnetic fields.