Health-Related Anxiety and Hypochondriacal Concerns in Medical Students: A Cross-Sectional Study From Pakistan

Mohammad Faizan Zahid, Ambreen Haque, Moaz Aslam, Numra Abdul Aleem, Sheraz Hussain, Hamna Fahad, Haider Ali Naqvi, Kulsoom Ghias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Phenomenon: Transient health-related anxiety/hypochondriacal concerns in medical students are well documented. The literature suggests that after studying a particular disease, medical students are likely to consider any symptoms earlier regarded as normal to be signs of the disease they are studying. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of these phenomena and their cognitive and distress aspects among medicals students in Karachi, Pakistan. Approach: This was an analytical, cross-sectional study. Self-administered questionnaires comprising demographic details, the Short Health Anxiety Inventory, Medical Students’ Disease (MSD) Perception Scale, and MSD Distress Scale were distributed to 1st- through 5th-year medical students. Findings: In total, 513 medical students (66% female) participated. Their mean age was 21 ± 1.6 years. Three hundred seventy-five students (73%) reported having visited a doctor at least once in the past 6 months. Fifty students (9.9%) admitted to having addictions. The overall prevalence of significant hypochondriacal concerns was 11.9% (61 students). The presence of addiction was associated with a greater likelihood of developing significant health-related anxiety (odds ratio = 3.82, p =.003), 95% confidence interval [1.51, 7.11]. Age, gender, medical school, year of medical school, and visits to the doctor in the previous 6 months were not associated with greater likelihood of developing significant health-related anxiety. Second-year medical students experienced a significantly greater degree of worry (MSD–Distress scale) than 5th-year students (M score = 12.6 ± 4.6 vs. 10.7 ± 4.4, p =.04). Insights: The prevalence of substantial hypochondriacal concerns in medical students in Pakistan was low in comparison to similar studies published in literature. Student health physicians should be aware of the true prevalence of hypochondriacal concerns and behavior and not dismiss legitimate complaints. Educational sessions to counteract this phenomenon can be incorporated into the curriculum of undergraduate medicine. By defining heightened awareness of symptoms as a normal process, different coping techniques can be discussed to help medical students reduce their level of stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-259
Number of pages8
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • health-related anxiety
  • hypochondriasis
  • medical education
  • medical students
  • transient hypochondriasis


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