Nocebo effect: When media reports make you sick

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Media reports can cause symptoms of illness

Media reports about allegedly hazardous substances actually trigger disease symptoms in some people. Researchers found that the pain-processing brain regions in those affected were actually activated. Experts speak of the so-called "nocebo effect".

Nocebo effect can cause real complaints The media are full of reports of supposedly deadly viruses, dangerous electrosmog and many other health-endangering things. Many people are so afraid of these health hazards - and so much so that they develop symptoms of illness based solely on the media reports. Then the so-called "nocebo effect" takes effect, which describes the opposite of the "placebo effect". While the "placebo effect" has a positive effect on health due to the ineffective use of medication, the "nocebo effect" causes complaints solely due to media reports and the resulting negative expectations of those affected.

An investigation by Dr. Michael Witthöft from the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) in Mainz, who worked with G. James Rubin on the phenomenon of electromagnetic hypersensitivity during a research stay at King’s College in London. Magnetic resonance imaging showed that the pain-processing brain regions were actually activated in those affected. "However, there is much to suggest that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a so-called nocebo effect," reports Witthöft. "The expectation of damage alone can actually cause pain or discomfort, as we do the other way round in the area of ​​pain-relieving effects from placebo -Know effects. "

Media reports can make you sick For the study, part of the 147 test subjects was shown a report that dealt with the health risks of WLAN and mobile radio signals. The other study participants, on the other hand, saw a report on the security of Internet and mobile phone data. Subsequently, all subjects were told that they would next be exposed to an alleged WLAN signal for 15 minutes. As a result, 54 percent of the subjects reported symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, anxiety and anxiety. The subjects who had previously seen the report on the health risks of WLAN signals are the most frequently developing symptoms of illness. Two subjects had to stop the experiment due to severe complaints as to whether there was actually no radiation at all.

"Tests have shown that those affected could not differentiate whether they were actually exposed to electromagnetic fields and that their symptoms could be triggered by sham exposure as well as by real radiation," said Witthöft.
The phenomenon of the "nocebo effect" was first observed in drug trials when study participants suffered from supposed side effects, even though they were given a placebo rather than a medication.

The investigation by Witthöft and Rubin shows what influence lurid and often unscientific media reports can have on viewers. "It is imperative that science and the media work together more closely and make every effort to ensure that reports, for example about possible health risks of new technologies, reach the public as truthfully as possible and to the best of our knowledge," demands Witthöft. (Ag)

Also read:
Pain can be a matter of the head
How the placebo effect can work

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