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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Health anxiety and perceived vulnerability to illness Thordarson, Dana S.


The purpose of this study was to test several hypotheses suggested by Warwick & Salkovskis's (1990) recently developed cognitive-behavioural theory of hypochondriasis and health anxiety. The main hypothesis of the study was that perceived vulnerability to illness, fear of bodily sensations and changes, and dysfunctional attitudes toward illness are the major components of health anxiety. University students (N=161) completed a questionnaire package with measures of health anxiety (including the Whitely Index), perceived vulnerability to illness, fear of bodily sensations, dysfunctional attitudes, depression (BDI), and trait anxiety (STAI-T). The results suggested that the most important of the hypothesized components was dysfunctional attitudes toward illness, followed by perceived vulnerability toward illness. However, these predictors did not account for a large proportion of the variance in health anxiety scores, and their contribution was further reduced by including depression as a covariate. The results are discussed regarding problems with measurement, sampling, and theory. Further research, especially studies devoted to the role of experience of illness in health anxiety, is suggested.

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