Living conditions and psychosomatic complaints in Swedish schoolchildren

Acta Paediatr. 2006 Aug;95(8):929-34. doi: 10.1080/08035250600636545.


Background: The proportion of Swedish schoolchildren that reports psychosomatic complaints has increased during recent decades, parallel to major structural changes in Swedish society.

Aim: To investigate the association of psychosomatic complaints in relation to household socio-economic conditions.

Methods: Cross-sectional study based on data from child supplements linked to nationally representative household surveys in Sweden during 2000-2003, covering a sample of 5390 children aged 10-18 y. Symptom variables were based on child interviews, while data from parental interviews were used to create socio-economic variables.

Results: Girls more often reported headache and recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) than boys, and these differences became more pronounced with age. Economic stress in the household was associated with headache (OR 1.21, p<0.05), RAP (OR 1.46, p<0.001) as well as difficulties falling asleep (OR 1.35, p<0.01), while there were no consistent associations between symptoms and social class or unemployed parents. Children in single-parent families consistently reported somewhat more symptoms than children in two-parent families (OR 1.26 for at least two of the three symptoms, p<0.05).

Conclusion: Economic stress, but not social class, was a significant but moderate risk factor for all three psychosomatic symptoms. It is possible that a growing proportion of families in economic stress has contributed to the parallel increase in reported psychosomatic complaints among Swedish schoolchildren. Further studies are needed to clarify the relation between lack of money, relational strain/support and psychosomatic complaints.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology