PUPS study identifies factors linked to health anxiety

The results of an Oxford Health study exploring health anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic have been published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

PUPS study identifies factors linked to health anxiety

The PUPS study invited participants aged over 18 in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to complete an online questionnaire about their personal circumstances, wellbeing and behaviour during the pandemic. They were then invited to complete a follow up survey after 3 months.

Analysis of the survey results from the 324 participants who took part in the initial survey and 199 people who completed the follow up questionnaire, showed a link between health anxiety and conditions such as depression and anxiety. Factors such as loneliness, poor quality of life, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and panic were also linked with increased susceptibility to health anxiety during the pandemic.

Other predictors identified by the study included being female, having a pre-existing health condition, and finding it difficult to cope with uncertainty.  However changes in financial situation, changes in employment status, being able to do grocery shopping, being a key worker and ethnicity were not shown to be linked to health anxiety.

The study’s authors concluded that there needs to be a high awareness among healthcare professionals of the possible impact of health anxiety on their patients – particularly as we continue to be affected by the pandemic. They also note the need to further investigate the relationship between health anxiety and fatigue, sleep quality, gender and health difficulties.

Dr Andrew Molodynski, one of those leading the trial said:

“We know that COVID has affected us all in different ways over the last 18 months and the research team at Oxford Health have worked hard in this study to try and improve our understanding of these differences and to highlight the need to keep thinking about each individual rather than making assumptions about how the pandemic may have changed things for them.”

Amani Krayem, who also worked on the study, added:

“It has been amazing to see the PUPS project come to fruition. We are very grateful for the support from our colleagues in the R&D team and I am hopeful that this will encourage more staff to lead their own research. Special thanks also to all the Oxford Health staff who participated in PUPS.”


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Published: 16 December 2021