The “worried well” may increase their risk of heart disease, research suggests.
Experts including a team from the Sandviken University Hospital in Norway, analysed data for more than 7,000 people for their study, published in the online journal BMJ Open.
They said that while general anxiety was already known to increase the risk of heart disease, which can cause heart attacks, chest pain and heart failure, health anxiety might play a role.
Health anxiety often refers to a preoccupation with having or developing a serious illness, despite medical investigations finding no sign of disease.
All the people in the research were born between 1953 and 1957.
They filled in two questionnaires about their health, lifestyle, and education, and underwent health checks including blood tests, weight, height, and blood pressure measurements between 1997 and 1999. Their heart health was then followed using medical records up to the end of 2009.
Overall 234 people (3.3 per cent) suffered a heart attack or bout of acute angina during the monitoring period. Those people with health anxiety were twice as likely to suffer heart problems compared with those who did not.
While other risk factors, such as diabetes, explained part of the association, health anxiety was linked to a heightened risk on its own. The team emphasised that their study could not prove that anxiety caused heart disease.