Prevalence of subjective poor health symptoms associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields among university students

Bioelectromagnetics. 2007 May;28(4):326-30. doi: 10.1002/bem.20305.


The number of people complaining about different symptoms that may be associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) has increased rapidly during past years. Students use both mobile phones and video display terminals frequently. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of mobile phone use and EMF health hazards. Basic demographic data and self-reported symptoms were sought using a questionnaire administered to all apparently healthy students at Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences (RUMS) and Vali-e-Asr University (VAU). Questions about some major confounding factors such as age, gender, amount of video display terminal work were also included. Exact Fischer Test was used for data analysis. Among self-reported symptoms, headache (53.5%), fatigue (35.6%), difficulties in concentration (32.5%), vertigo/dizziness (30.4%), attention disorders (28.8%), nervousness (28.1%), palpitation (14.7%), low back pain (14.3%), myalgia (12.4%), and tinnitus (9.9%) were the main self-reported symptoms. No significant differences in the prevalence of these symptoms were found between CRT users and those who did not use CRTs. A significant association was found between cordless phone use and difficulties in concentration (P < .05) or attention disorders (P < .05). However, after correction of the gender role, these differences were not significant. No association was found between mobile phone use and the above-mentioned symptoms. No significantly higher prevalence of self-reported symptoms was found in individuals who had used mobile phones, video display terminals or cordless phones more frequently than others. Mass-media's lack of interest in the possible hazards of exposure to EMF in developing countries can explain the difference observed between the results of this study and those of other researchers in some developed countries who have shown an association between EMF exposure and the prevalence of self-reported subjective symptoms. This finding can confirm the results obtained in provocative studies which indicated the role of psychological factors in electromagnetic hypersensitivity. More research is needed to clarify whether daily environmental EMF may cause health problems.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone
  • Computer Terminals
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Male
  • Students*
  • Students, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities