Psychosocial factors affecting psychosomatic symptoms in Japanese schoolchildren

Pediatr Int. 2000 Aug;42(4):354-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-200x.2000.01243.x.


Background: In a previous study we reported the prevalence of psychosomatic symptoms in 1619 Osaka elementary schoolchildren using our original general health questionnaire assessed by their parents. We found that psychosomatic symptoms were increasing with age. This study was designed to investigate psychosocial factors responsible for increasing psychosomatic symptoms with age.

Methods: We calculated a correlation coefficient between the physical complaints score (PCS) and these psychosocial variables using quantitation I of multiple regression analysis separately in the older (10-12 years, n = 860) and the younger age group (7-9 years, n = 759).

Results: A stronger relationship between PCS and psychosocial problems was found in the older (r = 0.719, P < 0.0001) than in the younger age group (r = 0.570, P < 0.0001). Further analysis demonstrated that difficulties in school performance and increasing psychological conflicts with human relationships were major causes of somatic complaints in the older age group. In the younger age group, however, immaturity of social skills seems to be a primary problem. In addition, poor parental interaction and the playing of computer games were found to increase somatic complaints in children.

Conclusion: Children in the older age reflect the closer bio-psycho-socio interaction compared with their younger counterparts. This may give rise to a high incidence of psychosomatic disorders and school refusal in Japanese children. We emphasize that psychological support by parents in daily life is necessary to reduce psychosomatic symptoms in children.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Peer Group
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • School Health Services
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological*