Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials New technologies mean new health complaints

Modern worries, new technology, and medicine

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 23 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:690
  1. Keith J Petrie, associate professor (,
  2. Simon Wessely, professor (
  1. Health Psychology Department, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. Academic Department of Psychological Medicine, Guy's, King's College, and St Thomas's Hospitals School of Medicine and Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF

    Over recent years there has been a steady and important change in the public's perception of the relation between aspects of modern life and health. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, people's suspicion of modernity has increased to such an extent that it has undermined their view of their own health, increased their worries about environmental causes of poor health, and fostered a migration to complementary medicine. Concerns about the safety of mobile phones, environmental pollution, vaccines, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, genetically modified food, and food in general have led to a heightened awareness of the effect of environmental changes on health. We believe that these concerns about technological change, which have been largely unrecognised by researchers, have important implications for the way patients interact with health services.

    This change in public concerns has obvious and more subtle effects. Despite considerable recent research and official inquiries into new technologies such as mobile phones and genetically modified food, public suspicion remains high. In clinical settings patients are reluctant to start medication or to continue it for an extended period for …

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