Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

Other Names:
EMF sensitivity
Ill-health due to electrosensitivity

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed. EHS has no scientific basis and is not a recognized medical diagnosis, although it is generally accepted that the experience of EHS symptoms is of psychosomatic origin. Claims are characterized by a "variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields". Attempts to justify the claim that EHS is caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields have amounted to pseudoscience.

Those who are self-described with EHS report adverse reactions to electromagnetic fields at intensities well below the maximum levels permitted by international radiation safety standards. Provocation trials have found that such claimants are unable to distinguish between exposure and non-exposure to electromagnetic fields. A systematic review of medical research in 2011 found no convincing scientific evidence for symptoms being caused by electromagnetic fields. Since then, several double-blind experiments have shown that people who report electromagnetic hypersensitivity are unable to detect the presence of electromagnetic fields and are as likely to report ill health following a sham exposure as they are following exposure to genuine electromagnetic fields, suggesting the cause in these cases is the nocebo effect.

As of 2005, the WHO recommended that claims of EHS be clinically evaluated to determine and rule out alternative diagnoses for suffered symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy and management of co-morbid psychiatric disorders may be helpful in managing the condition.

Some people who feel they are sensitive to electromagnetic fields may seek to reduce their exposure or use alternative medicine. Government agencies have enforced false advertising claims against companies selling devices to shield against EM radiation.


Middle age, female sex and poor perceived health was found to be associated with electomagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Of a group of self-reporting EHS sufferers (n=91), more than half had EMF-related symptoms more often than once a week, and the mean number of years experiencing EHS was 10.5. More than half of the EHS group reported that their symptoms started after a high-dose or long-term EMF exposure, that they actively tried to avoid EMF sources and that they mostly could affect the EMF environment. A minority had sought medical attention, been diagnosed by a physician or received treatment. Exhaustion syndrome, anxiety disorder, back/joint/muscle disorder, depression, functional somatic syndrome and migraine were found to be comorbid with EHS.

Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST