The Subjective Health Complaints Inventory: a useful instrument to identify various aspects of health and ability to cope in older people?

Scand J Public Health. 2009 Sep;37(7):690-6. doi: 10.1177/1403494809344104. Epub 2009 Aug 7.


Aims: The aims were to investigate the factor structure of the Subjective Health Complaints Inventory (SHC) in a population of 75 years and above and to identify whether somatic, psychosocial, and coping factors were associated with the SHC factors.

Methods: Data from 242 elderly persons were analyzed. The measures were: the SHC Inventory, Sense of Coherence, Social Provision Scale, Self-Rated Health, General Health Questionnaire, Clinical Dementia Rating, Reported Illness, Barthel ADL Index, sex, age, and education.

Results: The factor analysis resulted in four subgroups: musculoskeletal pain (15% of variance), gastrointestinal problems (12% of variance), respiratory/allergy complaints (11% of variance), and pseudoneurology (11% of variance). The occurrence of complaints was 76% for musculoskeletal complaints, 51% for gastrointestinal complaints, 30% for flu, 43% for allergy, and 93% for pseudoneurology. Self-rated health and reported illness were significantly associated with musculoskeletal complaints (15% of variance), impairment in activities of daily living (ADL) with gastrointestinal complaints (3% of variance), and finally sense of coherence, self-rated health, and psychological distress were associated with pseudoneurology (32% of variance). No variables were associated with respiratory/allergy complaints.

Conclusions: This study supports the stability of the SHC's factor structure. The low occurrence of health complaints could possibly be due to survival effects, or that old people to a greater extent than younger people compare themselves with aged peers. The subscales focusing on somatic symptoms were explained by reported illnesses and functional impairments to a limited degree only. The pseudoneurology subscale score was associated with psychological measures, particularly ability to cope.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morbidity*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Self Concept