Application of a worry reduction intervention in a medically unexplained symptoms-analogue student-sample

Lynn Mobach*, Hein T. van Schie, Gerard W. B. Naring

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objective: Worry is an important perpetuating factor of Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS). Former research has shown that a worry postponement instruction is effective in reducing Subjective Health Complaints (SHC) in non-clinical samples. This study aimed to (1) replicate these findings in a MUS-analogue student-sample and (2) assess alexithymia as a moderator. Design: The current study had an experimental design with two waves of data collection: pre- and post-intervention. Main outcome measures: A MUS-analogue student-sample consisting of 114 undergraduate students with high self-reported health worry and a minimum of two doctor visits in the previous year with no current diagnosis for a (chronic or acute) disease were instructed to register their worry frequency and duration eight times per day via an experience sampling-application on their smartphones. The intervention group additionally postponed their worries to a 30-minute period in the evening. SHC were assessed pre- and post-intervention. Results: The intervention did not have an effect on worry or SHC. Alexithymia did not moderate this effect (p's > .05). Conclusion: Our study did not find evidence for the effectiveness of the worry reduction intervention on SHC in a MUS-analogue student-sample. This finding contributes to several previous studies that have found mixed evidence for the effectiveness of the worry reduction intervention on SHC and suggests that the worry intervention may not be effective in all cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-694
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology & Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • repetitive negative thinking
  • worry reduction intervention
  • experience sampling method
  • subjective health complaints
  • alexithymia
  • medically unexplained symptoms

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