Study Suggests “WiFi Sickness” Is Imaginary

wifi sickness

A sizable number of people are convinced that cellphones and wireless internet make them physically ill, and dozens have gone so far as to give up their lives and move to the isolated, signal-free Radio Quiet Zone in the mountains of West Virginia to alleviate the symptoms. Via Inkfish, a recent experiment at King’s College London points to the disease being psychological:

Subjects at put on headband-mounted antennas. They were told that the researchers were testing a “new kind of WiFi,” and that once the signal started they should carefully monitor any symptoms in their bodies. Then the researchers left the room. For 15 minutes, the subjects watched a WiFi symbol flash on a laptop screen.

In reality, there was no WiFi switched on during the experiment. Yet 82 of the 147 subjects—more than half—reported symptoms. Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand.

There’s no known scientific reason why a wireless signal might cause physical harm. And studies have found that even people who claim to be sensitive to electromagnetic fields can’t actually sense them. Their symptoms are more likely due to nocebo, the evil twin of the placebo effect.

“It suggests that sensational media reports especially in combination with personality factors (in this case anxiety) increase the likelihood for symptom reports,” psychologist Michael Witthöft says.

27 Comments on "Study Suggests “WiFi Sickness” Is Imaginary"

  1. Study Suggests: Smoking does not give you cancer.

    After 100 people smoked a pack of cigarettes one day a week for 2 weeks, no signs of cancer are apparent.

    Thus: Cancer is an illusion.

    • You have it backwards. The people in this study were reporting symptoms in response to wi-fi that was not, in reality, present.

      Nobody is claiming that the symptoms are an illusion. They’re just not caused by wi-fi.

      • Well I was more implicating the difficulty to determine long-term effects if any, through the issuance of short-term studies.

        edit: I see what you’re saying but this kind of study is a red-herring to imply that just because people are susceptible to suggestion, that all effects of this type are suggestion-based. (i also wonder if the suggestion allows for a “noticing” of the wifi that is generally around us at all times anyways; that would be an interesting test)

        • David Duke-Astin | May 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

          fair enough, but absent evidence of harm from wi-fi, this is a reasonable conclusion.

          • check my answer to to DeepCaugh(assuming its allowed through moderation…..). I agree that it is possible that the risk is extremely small to be neglected, but I see trying to equate that to zero risk at all is not a good thing.

    • Calypso_1 | May 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      I’ll tell you a secret.
      If you really parse the data correctly the highest incidence of lung cancer is not so much directly correlated w/ cigarette smoking but smoking in conjunction with living in the pollution zones of coal fired power plants. However that little factoid gets rolled into the general statistics for incidence of lung cancer among smokers in general.

      Long live the Power Lobby.

      • I actually suspected something of the sorts, but its one of those pseudo-beliefs that i don’t have any evidence for so i don’t actively espouse.

        I also expect the dosage categorization under pack-years is a little clunky, but the only answer to that is “it’s the best we got”

        g2g gunna go have a smoke.

      • The air near highly traveled roads (highway, etc) is toxic, but the aroma has been removed. Walking along such for a short distance can be like smoking a pack of cigarettes.

        As for wi-fi sickness, I have no clue. I do enjoy the convenience of Wi-Fi though.

  2. DeepCough | May 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

    “Gentlemen, repeat after me: ‘While we are researching the issue, there are currently
    no studies to suggest that cell phones cause cancer.'”

    ~Thank You For Smoking

    • Risk factors in radiation biology are according to the amount of energy attenuated by human tissue. The amount of energy lost by attenuation is the energy that is injected into the human system.

      There is in fact attenuation at the frequency bands used for cell-phones.

      The question of risk is the degree of how much energy is being transferred into the human system. To me it is not a question of whether or not the risk is there, but whether the risk is small enough to be negligible. This answer I do not know but it still should not be dismissed outright as most people do.

    • Given that almost all types of cancer are on the decline (including brain cancer) at the same time that cell phone use has skyrocketed, we could conclude that cell phones actually prevent cancer (if we wanted to mistake correlation for causation).

      • DeepCough | May 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

        Well, the interesting thing is that the reason why cancer linked to cell phones went down is because people decided to stop holding them up to their face and talking into them, as one would normally do, and instead type brief text messages back and forth.

  3. BuzzCoastin | May 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm |

    the details are as lacking as the conclusion derived from it

  4. BuzzCoastin | May 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm |

    without being able to actually read the study
    I assume it proved that college kids in London
    who have never had a problem with WIFI noise
    probably won’t have a problem
    when tested by corporate funded research in London

  5. Hmm Just found some neat information from our good friends at the WHO

    This is mostly about Radar, but gets into RF exposure in general

  6. Okay…

    Tell someone something’s happening, and they’ll pick it up whether it’s happening or not. The Placebo Effect in full effect (Redefined as the Nocebo effect, since we’re talking about people being triggered to suffer).

    Says nothing about long-term effects.

  7. mannyfurious | May 20, 2013 at 11:14 am |

    I’m a luddite, but even I have to admit there really is no evidence that WIFI gives people any kind of illness.

    My mom lives in a very small town where there’s a small sub-population of people who believe that the wifi waves are making them sick. My mom works in the library and when these people want to come in, they always call ahead and ask my mom to disconnect the wifi for a half-an-hour so they can grab a book and leave. My mom used to do so, but now she just tells them she does, but really doesn’t disconnect the wifi.

    In the past, if they knew the wifi was connected, they would stagger in, grab at their heads, report feelings of nausea and discombobulation. Now, however, she reports that they walk in, bright-eyed and bushy-assed. Chatty, talkative, a pleasure to be around. They have no idea that she no longer disconnects the wifi for them.

    I think that’s pretty funny.

  8. Noah_Nine | May 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm | these folks seem pretty proof positive that wi-fi is harmful…. this doc struck me as propaganda though.

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