Nutrition Evidence Alert – June 2021 – Health Anxiety

Welcome to the June edition of the Nutrition Evidence Alert.


As we slowly make our way out of widespread restrictions back to a renewed sense of normal, what has a year of lockdowns left us with? A persistent lack of certainty, largely towards our health and wellbeing, has lead to a variety of behavioural and emotional responses, in particular, an increase in the prevalence of health anxiety (Jungmann & Witthöft, 2020).

Health anxiety is a condition which causes individual’s excessive worry that they are unwell, or that they will become unwell. It can involve frequent body checking, asking others for reassurance, worrying that diagnostic tests are not accurate and obsessively searching for answers relating to symptoms. Yet, in many cases, the individual attributes health anxiety related symptoms, as something related to an undiagnosed condition, leading to a never ending cycle of concern.

Following the events of the last year, there has been an increase in the presence of ‘cyberchondria’, anxiety towards someone’s health, created or exacerbated by using the internet to search for medical information (Jungmann & Witthöft, 2020). With the increase in reliance on social media and the internet over the last year, professionals have needed to find ways to manage the rise in subsequent health anxiety in their clients, so understanding it is key.

This increase in health-related anxiety, combined with life in lockdown and its associated restrictions, has seen people responding and managing in different ways, particularly with their food related behaviours. A combination of changes to individual’s eating styles, coping strategies and risk of food insecurity, has resulted in some managing their health and wellbeing more effectively than others. This month’s research articles demonstrate the food related responses individual’s have had, both during and after lockdown, and provide examples of how this has been influenced by health anxiety.

From our Guest Editor: Laura Falconer

My name is Laura Falconer, and I am a trainee health psychologist at the University of West of England, currently completing the health psychology doctorate. I am certified in advanced CBT, eating psychology, counselling and psychotherapy. I am currently a Behaviour Change Team Manager, with previous work experience in long term conditions and the Berkshire eating disorders team. I’m also a group leader for Endometriosis UK, and founded the Endo Mindset, a platform to support those with endometriosis and their partners in managing the condition.


These are Laura’s top picks of research:

Coping behaviors associated with decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Journal of affective disorders. 2020

Anxiety, anhedonia and food consumption during the COVID-19 quarantine in Chile. in Appetite. 2021

Comparing eating behaviours, and symptoms of depression and anxiety between Spain and Greece during the COVID-19 outbreak: Cross-sectional analysis of two different confinement strategies. in European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association. 2020

Eating disorder pathology and compulsive exercise during the COVID-19 public health emergency: Examining risk associated with COVID-19 anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty. in The International journal of eating disorders. 2020

Eating in the lockdown during the Covid 19 pandemic; self-reported changes in eating behaviour, and associations with BMI, eating style, coping and health anxiety. in Appetite. 2021

Effects of home confinement on mental health and lifestyle behaviours during the COVID-19 outbreak: insights from the ECLB-COVID19 multicentre study. in Biology of sport. 2021

Psychological Aspects and Eating Habits during COVID-19 Home Confinement: Results of EHLC-COVID-19 Italian Online Survey. in Nutrients. 2020

Recommended Blog and Podcast this month

PodcastPanic Attacks: Biology or Psychology.  In conversation with Dr Mark Hyman and Dr George Papaicolaou

BlogRelaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response from Harvard Health Publishing

BANT is spearheading the ‘Food for your Health’ campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of personalised nutrition and lifestyle medicine and to educate the public on making healthy food choices to prevent and manage metabolic conditions, including those associated with overweight and obesity. Click through to our campaign page for free resources

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