In recent years there has been a growing public fascination with how features of modern life pose threats to personal health. In general discourse many individuals now seem to express concerns about how their health is threatened by modernity and new environmental contaminants or dangers. Popular magazines and other media routinely present stories about how individuals are vulnerable to previously unrecognised dangers from features of modernity such as genetically modified food, cell phones, depletion of the ozone layer, vaccinations, pesticides and high tension power lines.
Popular media now seem to be more focussed on health than in previous times and regularly run health scares as lead stories. The way in which such stories are presented is likely to have had two important effects. Firstly, greater attention to health has increased the public perception of personal vulnerability and while objective indices of health have risen over the past 50 years, subjective feelings of health have declined. Individuals now feel increasingly vulnerabe to many features of everyday life.
While this change in public concern is evident in the media and in a heightened awareness of health issues, researchers in the health psychology and psychosomatic areas have been slow to recognise that this change may have an important impact on how individuals think about their health and seek treatment. It seems probable that worries about the risks