Association between media coverage and prevalence of idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic field in Taiwan

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Abstract

Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) describes symptoms sufferers attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). In Taiwan, the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF was 13.3% in 2007, but a survey using the same method found the rate declined to 4.6% in 2012. Because media reports may encourage readers to attribute their symptoms to EMF, the change might be related to media coverage. We searched articles indexed in the largest newspaper database in Taiwan to evaluate the association between media coverage and the prevalence of IEI-EMF. We also assessed the effects of other potential affecting factors. The number of newspaper articles related to EMF and IEI-EMF increased from 2005 to 2007 and then has been decreasing until 2012, which is compatible with the change in the prevalence of IEI-EMF. However, from 2007 to 2012, the other potential affecting factors such as density of mobile phone base stations, number of mobile phone users, total mobile phone calling time, and number of text messages sent through mobile phones all increased in Taiwan. This finding indicated a positive association between media coverage and the prevalence of IEI-EMF in Taiwan, which might also be true in other countries.

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