Risk factors for hypochondriacal concerns in a sample of military veterans

Russell Noyes, David B. Watson, Caroline P. Carney, Elena M. Letuchy, Paul M. Peloso, Donald W. Black, Bradley N. Doebbeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The aim was to examine the influence of combat exposure and other risk factors on the development of hypochondriacal concerns among veterans of the Gulf War and to learn whether these concerns might be a source of increased symptom reporting among them. Six hundred two veterans who were deployed to the Gulf or elsewhere during the 1991 war took part in a two-phase study of symptoms and illnesses occurring among these veterans. Hypochondriacal beliefs and attitudes were assessed by the Whiteley Index and somatic symptoms by a factor-analytically derived measure. Multiple regression models were developed for these outcomes. Hypochondriacal concerns were significantly associated with level of education, personal history of depression, number of prewar physical conditions, family history of functional syndromes, negative and positive temperament and disinhibition, military combat, level of military preparedness, social support, and perceived life stress. Somatic symptoms were associated with these same variables, as well as branch of service, family history of physical conditions, combat, and level of combat exposure. A regression model for hypochondriacal concerns included the number of prewar physical conditions, negative temperament, lack of social support, and perceived life stress. Hypochondriacal concerns were not strongly related to combat exposure. Consequently, it is not likely that such concerns account for increased symptom reporting among the veterans studied. Hypochondriacal concerns appeared to arise in response to threats posed by physical illness. Vulnerability to such threats appeared to center on the personality dimension of negative temperament. This model may serve as a guide to future investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-539
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiology
  • Gulf war
  • Hypochondriasis
  • Risk factors
  • Somatic symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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