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A psychologist explains how 5G health fears can involve real symptoms (that weren't caused by 5G)

(Image credit: Pixabay)

5G internet offers much faster mobile speeds, lower latency, and a lot more capacity to handle a growing number of wirelessly connected devices. And like all other new technologies, it has been the subject of health fears, although there's no conclusive evidence that 5G waves (or other wireless communication) cause health problems. It definitely has nothing to do with the spread of the coronavirus, although there are conspiracy theories to the effect.

However, when people fear that their environment is making them sick, their concern may involve real symptoms—even if those symptoms didn't actually come from the environment. In a brief report on the phenomenon published today, Engadget spoke with Professor Omer Van den Bergh, one of the scientists behind a 2017 paper on the subject. Van den Bergh says that people with "modern health worries" may attribute actual symptoms to "environmental causes," despite there being no diagnosed medical issue.

The paper itself was not focused on 5G specifically, but the underlying phenomenon, termed "idiopathic environmental intolerance," is the same. The essential theory is that people will always experience some number of symptoms that don't have a clear cause, and for them, those symptoms can "become linked to specific environmental cues."

This is essentially what the character Chuck McGill suffers from in Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spinoff that focuses on Saul McGill/Goodman. Chuck (Saul's older brother) is often seen wrapped in aluminum foil in a dark house to block out electro-magnetic radiation that he believes is making him sick.

For some people who believe 5G is adversely affecting them, the lack of scientific evidence doesn't matter, nor does it help to tell them that it's all in their head—as Van den Bergh points out, "the symptoms are really there." It's what the symptoms are attributed to that changes over time.

Engadget's full discussion with Van den Bergh is definitely worth checking out. We recently chuckled about USB flash drives being sold for $350 as supposed 5G shields, but it adds valuable perspective to know that some of the people being taken advantage of may truly be experiencing symptoms that they think were caused by their environment.

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).