The current study is the first to longitudinally investigate the reciprocal relationship between online health information seeking and health anxiety, i.e., cyberchondria. Expectations were that health anxious individuals who go online to find health information, experience an increase in health anxiety, which in turn will reinforce online seeking. A 4-wave longitudinal survey study among 5322 respondents aged 16-93 was conducted. Our results showed that individuals who are more health anxious than others, search online for health information more. Moreover, the results provided initial evidence for the expected reciprocal relationship between health anxiety and online health information seeking in respondents with non-clinical levels of health anxiety at the start of the study. However, this reciprocal relationship could not be found in a subsample of clinically health anxious individuals. Although for these individuals online health information seeking did not seem to exacerbate health anxiety levels, it might still serve as a maintaining factor of clinical health anxiety.
Keywords: Cyberchondria; Health anxiety; Internet; Online health information seeking; Random intercept cross-lagged panel model.
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