Background: Frequent attendance to primary care services has shown an association with psychosocial factors in adult and child populations. Little is known about the psychosocial correlates of attendance in adolescents.
Aims of the study: To study the contribution of psychosocial factors to frequent primary care attendance in a community sample of young British people.
Method: The method used was a cross-sectional survey of 1,251 secondary school pupils, using self-report questionnaires for socio-demographic, physical and psychological health data.
Results: A total of 1,116 pupils [mean age 13.51 years (SD 1.5), 52% female] completed questionnaires and provided information about contact with their general practitioner (GP) in the previous year; 30% were frequent attenders (≥4 appointments). Frequent attenders were significantly younger; they were more likely to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, report significantly more past and current physical problems, have more hospital visits in the previous year, have more recent intense somatic symptoms made worse by stress and causing impairment, and have more days off school. Frequent attendance was also significantly associated with the presence of emotional symptoms and a history of mental health consultations. Logistic regression analysis identified seeing a hospital doctor, current illness, having days off school, a history of mental health consultations and younger age as independent predictors of frequent attendance.
Conclusion: In addition to physical health problems, social factors and psychiatric difficulty are linked to and require attention in young people who are frequent attenders at primary care health services.