Compulsive Health-Related Internet Use and Cyberchondria.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
European addiction research, 2021, 27, (1), pp. 58-66
Issue Date:
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Background: Cyberchondria denotes excessive and repeated online health-related searches associated with an increase in health anxiety. Such searches persist in those with cyberchondria, despite the negative consequences, resembling a pattern of compulsive Internet use. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to assess compulsive health-related Internet use in relation to cyberchondria while controlling for related variables. Method: Adult participants (N = 749) were recruited from an online platform. They completed questionnaires assessing the severity of cyberchondria (via the Cyberchondria Severity Scale [CSS]), compulsive Internet use adapted for online health-related seeking (via the adapted Compulsive Internet Use Scale [CIUS]), and levels of intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety, as well as depressive, somatic, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. A logistic regression analysis was carried out to identify predictors of scores above a cutoff value on the CIUS, indicating compulsive health-related Internet use. Results: The regression output showed that only the CSS total score and sex made a unique, statistically significant contribution to the model, leading to the correct classification of 78.6% of the cases. Of the CSS subscales, compulsion and distress were the most strongly associated with compulsive health-related Internet use. Conclusions: The finding that the adapted CIUS scores are associated with cyberchondria indicates that cyberchondria has a compulsive component, at least in terms of health-related Internet use. It also suggests that compulsive health-related Internet use persists despite the distress associated with this activity. Males may engage in cyberchondria more compulsively than females. These findings have implications for research and clinical practice.
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