Gender differences in health anxiety: An investigation of the interpersonal model of health anxiety

Health anxiety (HA) involves persistent worry about one’s health and beliefs one has an illness or may contract a disease. In the present study, gender differences in Noyes et al.’s (2003) interpersonal model of health anxiety (IMHA) were examined. Using a sample of 950 undergraduates (674 women; 276 men), multigroup confirmatory factor analyses suggested the measurement model for key dimensions of the IMHA (i.e., reassurance-seeking, alienation, worry, and absorption) were invariant across gender. This suggests key dimensions of this model are applicable to and generalizable across women and men. Coefficients alpha for and bivariate correlations between these IMHA dimensions were also roughly comparable across women and men. As hypothesized, mean levels of reassurance-seeking and worry were significantly higher in women compared to men. No gender differences were observed in mean levels of alienation or absorption. Reassurance-seeking and worry appear salient in the interpersonal behavior and emotional life of women with HA. The present study helps to clarify gender differences in the IMHA and other HA models involving similar variables.