[Cultural and migration aspects in functional abdominal pain]

Ther Umsch. 2011 Aug;68(8):421-33. doi: 10.1024/0040-5930/a000188.
[Article in German]


Compared to Europe's mean immigrant contingent of 7.3 to 8.6 % Switzerland holds the highest contingent of foreign population with 23.5 %. Therefore it is of utmost importance that physicians have a knowledge of the specific characteristics of immigrant patients. The influence of personality factors (experience, behavior) is not independent from the influence of culturally-related environmental factors (regional differences in diet, pollutants, meanings, etc.). In addition, different cultural groups rate their quality of life differently. Psychological reasons for recurrent abdominal pain are stress (life events), effects of self-medication (laxatives, cocaine) and sexual abuse but also rare infectious diseases are more common among immigrants (e.g. tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, etc.). Migration-specific characteristics are mainly to find in the semiotics of the symptoms: not every abdominal pain is real pain in the abdomen. Finally, it is crucial to make the distinction between organic, functional and psychological-related pain. This can, however, usually only be accomplished in the context of the entire situation of a patient and, depending on the situation, with the support of a colleague from the appropriate cultural group or an experienced interpreter. In this review we limit ourselves to the presentation of the working population of the migrants, because these represent the largest group of all migrants. The specific situation of asylum seekers will also be refrained to where appropriate.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Abdominal Pain / psychology*
  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms
  • Communication Barriers
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior
  • Life Change Events
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Refugees / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Values
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Switzerland