Objective: Some people report symptoms that they associate with electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure. These symptoms may be related to specific EMF sources or to electrical equipment in general (perceived electromagnetic hypersensitivity, EHS). Research and clinical observations suggest a difference between mobile phone (MP)-related symptoms and EHS with respect to symptom prevalence, psychological factors, and health prognosis. This study assessed prevalence of EMF-related and EMF-nonrelated symptoms, anxiety, depression, somatization, exhaustion, and stress in people with MP-related symptoms or EHS versus a population-based sample and a control sample without EMF-related symptoms.
Methods: Forty-five participants with MP-related symptoms and 71 with EHS were compared with a population-based sample (n=106) and a control group (n=63) using self-report questionnaires.
Results: The EHS group reported more symptoms than the MP group, both EMF-related and EMF-nonrelated. The MP group reported a high prevalence of somatosensory symptoms, whereas the EHS group reported more neurasthenic symptoms. As to self-reported personality traits and stress, the case groups differed only on somatization and listlessness in a direct comparison. In comparison with the reference groups, the MP group showed increased levels of exhaustion and depression but not of anxiety, somatization, and stress; the EHS group showed increased levels for all of the conditions except for stress.
Conclusion: The findings support the idea of a difference between people with symptoms related to specific EMF sources and people with general EHS with respect to symptoms and anxiety, depression, somatization, exhaustion, and stress. The differences are likely to be important in the management of patients.