Persistent presentation of medically unexplained symptoms in general practice

Fam Pract. 2006 Aug;23(4):414-20. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cml016. Epub 2006 Apr 21.


Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of persistent presentation of medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) in general practice. To assess socio-demographic characteristics, health status and use of health services of patients who frequently present MUPS, compared with reference groups.

Design: One-year, nationwide, representative survey of morbidity in general practice in The Netherlands, including 400,000 enlisted patients in 104 general practices.

Results: Of all patients (age: 18 years and older), 2.45% who visited their GP at least once a year, presented at least 4 times in 1 year with symptoms which are commonly considered medically unexplained without getting a medical diagnosis during that period, that might explain the symptoms. These patients are significantly older, more often female, less educated, more frequently unemployed and more frequently from a non-Western origin than 'average' patients or patients with a medical diagnosis.

Conclusion: Although 25-50% of all reasons for visit to a GP concern symptoms that are not medically explained, the frequent presentation of such symptoms is much more rare. Frequent attendance because of MUPS is most common among elderly women with a lower socio-economic status.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors