The relation between hypochondriasis and age

Arthur J. Barsky*, Cathrine B. Frank, Paul D. Cleary, Grace Wyshak, Gerald L. Klerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined the relation between hypochondriasis and age while controlling for the possible confounding influences of medical morbidity, social isolation, and other psychiatric disorder. Method: Consecutive patients attending a general medical clinic on randomly selected days were screened with a hypochondriasis self-report questionnaire. Those whose scores exceeded a preestablished cutoff level and a random sample of those who scored below it completed a research battery consisting of self-report questionnaires and structured interviews for DSM-III-R diagnoses of hypochondriasis and other axis I disorders. The patients' medical records were audited, and their physicians completed questionnaires about them. The 60 patients who met the DSM-III-R criteria for hypochondriasis at interview constituted the study group, and 100 patients randomly chosen from among those who scored below the cutoff for hypochondriasis constituted the comparison group. Results: The hypochondriacalgroup was not older than the comparison group. Hypochondriacal patients aged 65 years and over did not differ significantly from younger hypochondriacal patients in hypochondriacal attitudes, somatization, tendency to amplify bodily sensation, or global assessment of their overall health, even though their aggregate medical morbidity was greater. The elderly hypochondriacal patients had higher levels of disability, but this appeared to be attributable to their medical status rather than to any increase in hypochondriasis. Within the comparison sample, subjects aged 65 years and over were not more hypochondriacal than those under 65 years of age. Conclusions: Hypochondriasis is found to some degree in all patients and appears to be unrelated to age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-928
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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