Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Barry Edelstein

Committee Co-Chair

Maria Brann

Committee Member

Amy Fiske

Committee Member

Kevin Larkin

Committee Member

Aaron Metzger


The experience of heath anxiety among older and young adults is poorly understood. Most studies (e.g., Abramowitz & Moore, 2007; Gramling et al., 1996) have examined cognitions and behaviors associated with health anxiety, with little to no studies examining emotions and physiological arousal. The present study induced health anxiety in a laboratory setting with 36 older and 36 young adults by providing false health-related feedback. Outcome variables included physiological arousal (heart rate, blood pressure), self-reported arousal (distress, fear of body sensations), and self-reported emotions recorded across three periods: baseline, induction, and recovery. Repeated measures MANCOVAs were conducted with baseline measures as covariates. Coping strategies used during the recovery period were also assessed. Results revealed a main effect of time for distress and fear of body sensations. A main effect of time was revealed for anxiety, depression, and positive affect, such that anxiety and depression were highest during induction and positive affect was lowest during induction relative to recovery. A significant age by time interaction was found for anxiety, with young adults reporting greater anxiety than older adults during induction. No effects for blood pressure or heart rate were found. In general, older and young adults reported using similar coping strategies, although young adults showed a slight preference for avoidance-based strategies. Results indicate health anxiety is experienced as a combination of negative emotions and low positive affect for both older and young adults. Implications for the understanding of health anxiety among older adults are discussed.