The association between neuroticism and self-reported common somatic symptoms in a population cohort

J Psychosom Res. 2007 Mar;62(3):305-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2006.10.014.


Objective: To test the hypotheses that (1) neuroticism is associated with self-reported somatic symptoms; (2) this association is especially found with regard to psychosomatic symptoms; and (3) it is not solemnly explained by somatic reflections of psychological distress.

Methods: We studied the cross-sectional association between neuroticism (as measured by EPQ-RSS-N), psychological distress (as measured by GHQ-12 sum score), and the occurrence of 22 common somatic symptoms by linear and logistic regression analyses in a population cohort of 6894 participants.

Results: Neuroticism is more strongly associated with the total number of somatic symptoms reported (beta=.32) than GHQ-12 sum score (beta=.15) and well-established risk markers such as gender (beta=.11) and age (beta=.04). Neuroticism was associated with all symptoms in individual logistic regressions controlled for age, gender, and psychological distress. Neuroticism is significantly more strongly related to psychosomatic symptoms (beta=.36) than to infectious/allergic symptoms (beta=.28).

Conclusion: In a large, population-based cohort, we confirmed that neuroticism is associated with self-reported somatic symptoms. The associations were not attributable to somatic reflections of psychological distress associated with neuroticism and were relatively strong with respect to psychosomatic symptoms. Future studies should include both objective and subjective measures of health to study the mechanisms that connect neuroticism and ill health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Role
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological / complications