Background and aims: Coeval with the expansion of mobile phone technology and the associated obvious presence of mobile phone base stations, some people living close to these masts reported symptoms they attributed to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Public and scientific discussions arose with regard to whether these symptoms were due to EMF or were nocebo effects. The aim of this study was to find out if people who believe that they live close to base stations show psychological or psychobiological differences that would indicate more strain or stress. Furthermore, we wanted to detect the relevant connections linking self-estimated distance between home and the next mobile phone base station (DBS), daily use of mobile phone (MPU), EMF-health concerns, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and psychological strain parameters.
Design, materials and methods: Fifty-seven participants completed standardized and non-standardized questionnaires that focused on the relevant parameters. In addition, saliva samples were used as an indication to determine the psychobiological strain by concentration of alpha-amylase, cortisol, immunoglobulin A (IgA), and substance P.
Results: Self-declared base station neighbors (DBS </= 100 meters) had significantly higher concentrations of alpha-amylase in their saliva, higher rates in symptom checklist subscales (SCL) somatization, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, phobic anxiety, and global strain index PST (Positive Symptom Total). There were no differences in EMF-related health concern scales.
Conclusions: We conclude that self-declared base station neighbors are more strained than others. EMF-related health concerns cannot explain these findings. Further research should identify if actual EMF exposure or other factors are responsible for these results.
Keywords: Base stations; electromagnetic fields; health risks; psychological strain.