The prevalence of symptoms attributed to electromagnetic field exposure: a cross-sectional representative survey in Switzerland

Soz Praventivmed. 2006;51(4):202-9. doi: 10.1007/s00038-006-5061-2.


Objectives: To investigate health risk perception as well as to assess the prevalence of self-reported symptoms attributed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and other environmental exposures in the general population of Switzerland.

Methods: Between May and June 2004, telephone interviews of a representative sample of the Swiss population (n=2048, >14 years old) about: (1) health symptoms attributed to five environmental factors (one of which was EMF), (2) health risk perception related to 12 environmental risk factors (five of which were different EMF sources).

Results: We found a prevalence of 5% (95% CI 4-6%) for electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) in our study sample. The most common health complaints among EHS individuals were sleep disorders (43%) and headaches (34%), which were mostly attributed to power lines and mobile phone handsets. In addition, 53 percent (95% CI 51-55%) were worried about adverse health effects from EMF, without attributing their own health symptoms to them.

Conclusions: The large proportion of the population who is concerned or attributes own symptoms to EMF may cause societal conflicts given the ubiquity of EMF in our everyday life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Phone
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electric Power Supplies / adverse effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Illness / epidemiology
  • Environmental Illness / etiology
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Headache / etiology
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Switzerland