Psychosomatic symptoms among schoolchildren

Int J Adolesc Med Health. Apr-Jun 2010;22(2):229-35. doi: 10.1515/ijamh.2010.22.2.229.


Psychosomatic symptoms are commonly reported among young people. The potential burden of such symptoms on both young people and health services is substantial. Research from several countries indicates that psychosomatic symptoms tend to co-exist rather than occur singularly and could impose limitations on daily living and participation in school life.

Objectives: The aim of this paper was to determine the weekly prevalence of somatic (headache, stomach-ache, dizziness, back ache) and psychological (feeling low, irritability/bad temper, difficulty sleeping, and nervousness) symptoms among schoolchildren in Ireland; and to explore, the influence of family material affluence on reported symptoms.

Study group: 11-17 year-old school going children.

Methods: Data are presented from the 2006 Irish Health Behaviour in the School-aged Children survey, comprising a nationally representative sample of schoolchildren aged 11-17 years (n = 9969). Sampling units were classes within schools with a response rate of 63% of schools and 83% of students.

Results: Irritability/bad temper (43.0%) and headache (26.0%) were the most commonly reported psychological and somatic symptoms among both boys and girls. Symptom prevalence was higher among girls (range 17.8% - 43.8%) than boys (range 10.7% - 42.3%) and was higher among older children of both genders, except for stomachache in boys. Girls from less affluent backgrounds were significantly more likely to report frequent symptoms (55.5% vs. 50.7%).

Conclusions: Multiple symptoms were inversely related to family material affluence for girls. The factors associated with psychosomatic symptoms and the consequences for schoolchildren require further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Behavioral Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Behavioral Symptoms / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Students / psychology