Offering a medical examination following disaster exposure does not result in long-lasting reassurance about health complaints.Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2008 May-Jun; 30(3):200-7.GH
This study tested the hypothesis that large-scale provision of individual medical examination will reduce persistent anxiety about health and subjective health complaints after involvement in an aviation disaster with alleged exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Three measurements were performed: during the medical examination, 6 weeks later during consultation with the physician and 12 weeks after the first examination. Rescue workers (n=1736) and residents (n=339) involved in the disaster participated. Standardized questionnaires on health complaints and concerns were administered.
Both groups reported increased health anxiety and somatic sensitivity after 12 weeks. Residents reported more posttraumatic stress symptoms, whereas rescue workers seemed to have gained a better quality of life and were somewhat reassured. Participants who attended the consultation with the physician showed increased reassurance scores after 6 weeks, but their worries had increased again on follow-up. However, nonattendees reported more health anxiety on follow-up. More participants judged participation to have had a positive impact, instead of a negative impact, on their health.
Our study does not indicate that a large-scale medical examination offered after involvement in a disaster has long-lasting reassuring effects and suggests that such examination may have counterproductive effects by sensitizing participants to health complaints.