Abdominal pain symptoms are associated with anxiety and depression in young children

Acta Paediatr. 2015 Nov;104(11):1156-63. doi: 10.1111/apa.13134. Epub 2015 Sep 30.


Aim: Abdominal pain symptoms and incontinence are common in childhood. The aim of this study was to analyse abdominal pain symptoms and their associations with incontinence and symptoms of anxiety and depression in young children.

Methods: We examined 1130 children during the school entry check-up (mean age 6.2 years) and 951 participated in the study. Parents completed a questionnaire contained 11 items regarding Rome-III functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) and incontinence and 14 items from the anxious/depressed scale of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Results: Of the 951 children (55.6% boys) we recruited, 30.1% had experienced abdominal pain symptoms in the past two months and 14% had complained of them at least once a week. In addition, 2.6% had irritable bowel syndrome, 11.3% had childhood functional abdominal pain, 2.4% were affected by faecal incontinence, 2.1% were affected by daytime urinary incontinence, and 5.5% were affected by nocturnal enuresis. One in ten (10.6%) had symptoms of anxiety and depression, and these were significantly higher in the children with FGIDs, particularly if they were also incontinent.

Conclusion: Nearly a third of the children (30.1%) had abdominal pain symptoms, and FGIDs were associated with significantly higher symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially if children were also incontinent.

Keywords: Abdominal pain; Anxiety; Child behavior checklist; Depression; Incontinence.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / complications*
  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis*
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Abdominal Pain / psychology
  • Anxiety / complications*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications*
  • Fecal Incontinence / complications
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Urinary Incontinence / complications