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Risks Perception of Electromagnetic Fields in Taiwan: The Influence of Psychopathology and the Degree of Sensitivity to Electromagnetic Fields

Authors

  • Mei-Chih Meg Tseng,

    1. Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
    2. Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan and National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
    3. Graduate, Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Yi-Ping Lin,

    1. Institute of Science, Technology, and Society, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Fu-Chang Hu,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine and School of Nursing, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
    2. International Harvard Statistical Consulting Company, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Tsun-Jen Cheng

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
    • Address correspondence to Dr. Tsun-Jen Cheng, Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, 17 Xu-Zhou Road, Taipei 10055, Taiwan; tel: 886-2-3366-8090; fax: 886-2-2395-7845; tcheng@ntu.edu.tw.

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Abstract

Little is known about the perceived health risks of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and factors associated with risk perception in non-Western countries. Psychological conditions and risk perception have been postulated as factors that facilitate the attribution of health complaints to environmental factors. This study investigated people's perceived risks of EMFs and other environmental sources, as well as the relationships between risk perception, psychopathology, and the degree of self-reported sensitivity to EMFs. A total of 1,251 adults selected from a nationwide telephone interviewing system database responded to a telephone survey about the relationships between environmental sources and human health. The interview included questions assessing participants’ psychiatric conditions and the presence and degree of sensitivity to EMFs. One hundred and seventy participants were self-identified as having sensitivity to EMFs, and 141 met the criteria for psychiatric conditions without EMF sensitivity. More than half of the survey respondents considered power lines and mobile phone base stations to affect people's health to a big extent. Higher sensitivity to EMFs, psychopathology, being female, being married, more years of education, and having a catastrophic illness had positive associations with perceived risks of EMF-related environmental sources as well as for all environmental sources combined. We observed no moderating effect of psychopathology on the association between degree of sensitivity to EMF and risk perception. Thus, psychopathology had influence on general people's risk perception without having influence on the relationship between people's degree of sensitivity to EMF and risk perception. The plausible explanations are discussed in the text.

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