“Reducing health anxiety by shutting down certain newspapers”

In his weekly journal review on a BMJ blog, Dr. Richard Lehman writes about a study published in the Lancet:

This trial of cognitive behavioural therapy for “health anxiety” was an enormous undertaking: “Of 28 991 patients screened, 444 were randomly assigned to receive either adapted cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-HA group, 219 participants) or standard care (standard care group, 225).” The screened patients were attending cardiology, endocrine, gastroenterology, and respiratory medicine clinics in six English general hospitals. Those who were allocated CBT received a mean of six sessions and their improvement was measured as 2•98 points greater than in those in the standard care group. Without examining the score in detail, the reader really has no idea what this means. But only 13.9% of the CBT patients attained “normal” levels of health anxiety, whatever they may be. I am lost. Perhaps this is a good use of CBT, perhaps it isn’t. Maybe we should go about reducing British health anxiety in other ways—for example, by shutting down certain newspapers. (GS note:  emphasis added by me.)

The Journal of the American Medical Association distributed this video news release about a paper concerning coronary artery calcium scans and scores.


Dr. Lehman also blogged about this study:

My take on coronary calcium scoring is simple: if you are worried enough to think about it, just swallow a statin every night and take more exercise. But like the medieval theologians who supposedly argued about how many angels could fit on the end of a pin, the coronary artery calcium scorers have taken to arguing about how thick the calcium needs to be. Bizarrely, the thinner the calcium, the more dangerous it seems to be. You can read the full paper for nothing. But you’d be better off going for a walk and eating an orange.

Health anxiety, again. I love Lehman’s blog.



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