Transcultural patterns of somatization in primary care: a preliminary report

J Psychosom Res. 1989;33(6):671-80. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(89)90082-2.


The ethnic origins of patients consulting their general practitioners (GP) were determined using criteria of country of birth, religion and preferred language. Three samples with preferred languages of English, Gujarati or Urdu were compared on a standardized interview with regard to symptom complaint, perception and attribution and also completed the General Health Questionnaire and Illness Behaviour Questionnaire. Their GPs provided diagnoses and ratings of physical and mental disorders. Compared with the English group, the Gujaratis had fewer psychosocial complaints, perceived less anxiety and were more likely to attribute their complaints to physical causes. They had higher scores on the Hypochondriasis and Denial scales. Their GPs rated them as less likely to have relevant physical or mental disorders. The Urdu group was intermediate in most respects. Thus somatization was commoner in these two Asian groups with different ethnic origins. However, overall levels of somatization appear to be high even in the English group. No significant differences were found between groups for complaints or ratings of depression, and the differences found in the somatization process appear to be related only to anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ethnopsychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • India / ethnology
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Pakistan / ethnology
  • Physicians, Family
  • Primary Health Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / ethnology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology