Psychological factors associated with self-reported sensitivity to mobile phones

J Psychosom Res. 2008 Jan;64(1):1-9; discussion 11-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2007.05.006. Epub 2007 Aug 1.


Objective: Some people report symptoms associated with mobile phone use. A minority also report "electrosensitivity," experiencing symptoms following exposure to other electrical devices. Research suggests that electromagnetic fields do not trigger these symptoms. In this study, we examined the differences between these two "sensitive" groups and healthy controls.

Methods: Fifty-two people who reported sensitivity to mobile phones, 19 people who reported sensitivity to mobile phones and "electrosensitivity," and 60 nonsensitive controls completed a questionnaire assessing the following: primary reason for using a mobile phone, psychological health, symptoms of depression, modern health worries (MHW), general health status, symptom severity, and the presence of other medically unexplained syndromes.

Results: Perceived sensitivity was associated with an increased likelihood of using a mobile phone predominantly for work (3% of controls, 13% of those sensitive to mobile phones, and 21% of those reporting "electrosensitivity") and greater MHW concerning radiation [mean (S.D.) on a scale of 1-5: 2.0 (1.0), 2.7 (0.9), and 4.0 (0.8), respectively]. Participants who reported "electrosensitivity" also experienced greater depression, greater worries about tainted food and toxic interventions, worse general health on almost every measure, and a greater number of other medically unexplained syndromes compared to participants from the other two groups. No group differences were observed with regards to psychiatric cases.

Conclusions: The data illustrate that patients reporting "electrosensitivity" experience substantially worse health than either healthy individuals or people who report sensitivity to mobile phones but who do not adopt the label "electrosensitivity." Clinicians and researchers would be wise to pay greater attention to this subdivision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cell Phone*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Illness / diagnosis
  • Environmental Illness / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role
  • Socioeconomic Factors