Prevalence, Intensity, and Sex Differences in Travel Related Stressors


Reprint requests: Dr. K. G. Power, Anxiety and Stress Research Centre, Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland


Background: The objective of this study was to investigate anxiety provoking features of international travel and the degree of anxiety experienced in travelers and in people who had not traveled abroad in the previous year.

Methods: A retrospective study of a 20% age- and sex-stratified quota sample of patients aged 15 years and over who had attended a group medical center in Stirling during 1994 was carried out. A standardized, structured, 16-point questionnaire was presented to people who attended the center for any purpose. A comparison, in terms of sex and intensity of travel-related worry, was made between foreign travelers and nontravelers within the preceding year. Experience of actual illness in relation to travel-related worry was also investigated.

Results: One thousand seven hundred and seventy one respondents met quota entry criteria, and 1649 subjects, 836 men and 935 women, completed the questionnaire (response rate 97%). Seven hundred and forty three subjects had traveled abroad. Travel-related worries were common, e.g., worries about infected food (32.1%), contaminated water (32.0%), and flying (24.4%). Females were more worried than males, and nontravelers were more worried than travelers regarding many travel-related stressors. The intensity of certain travel-related worries was greater for nontravelers than travelers.

Conclusions: For travelers, worries about infected food, contaminated water, and illness appeared justified by actual experience of travelers' diarrhea.