Age and gender differences of somatic symptoms in children and adolescents*

J Ment Health. 2013 Feb;22(1):33-41. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2012.734655.


Aims: This study provides information about the prevalence of somatic symptoms (Ss) in a population of Spanish children and adolescents and their distribution by age and gender. It also sheds light on which Ss are more associated with depression and anxiety and which are associated with more disability.

Method: A sample of 2558 school children and adolescents aged 8-16 years old, 1297 girls, completed one questionnaire about Ss, and two about anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Results: About 37.6% reported at least one Ss, headache being the most prevalent. In terms of age distribution, 26.8% of children and 52.1% of adolescents reported Ss. Girls reported more Ss than did boys. These gender differences started at 13 years of age and decreased at 15. Headache, stomach-ache and muscle pain were the Ss that caused the most impairment.

Conclusions: In general, both anxiety and depressive symptoms were related to all Ss, whereas anxiety symptoms were associated with fatigue and muscle pain [corrected].

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Spain / epidemiology