Self-Reported Psychosomatic Complaints In Swedish Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults Living in Rural and Urban Areas: An Internet-Based Survey

JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2017 Mar 7;3(1):e9. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.5902.


Background: Frequencies in reported psychosomatic illnesses have increased in Sweden among children, adolescents, and young adults. Little is known about demographic differences in self-reported psychosomatic complaints, such as between urban and rural areas, and whether surveys launched on the Internet could be a useful method in sampling such data.

Objectives: This study examines the connection between psychosomatic illnesses and demographics in Swedish children and youth. The feasibility of using the Internet to gather large amounts of data regarding psychosomatic complaints in this group is another major objective of this study.

Methods: A cross-sectional study using 7 validated questions about psychosomatic health, were launched in a controlled way onto a recognized Swedish Internet community site, which targeted users 10 to 24 years of age. The subjects were able to answer the items while they were logged in to their personal domain. The results were analyzed cross-geographically within Sweden.

Results: In total, we received 100,000 to 130,000 individual answers per question. Subjects of both sexes generally reported significantly higher levels of self-reported psychosomatic complaints in major city areas as compared with minor city/rural areas, even though the differences between the areas were small. For example, 12.00% (4472/37,265) of females in minor regions reported always feeling tense, compared with 13.80% (3156/22,873) of females in major regions (P<.001). In males, the answer pattern was similar, 16.40% (4887/29,801) in major regions versus 15.60% (2712/17,386) in minor regions, (P=.006). Females reported significantly higher frequencies of psychosomatic complaints than males (P<.001).

Conclusions: In subjects aged 10 to 24 years, higher levels of psychosomatic complaints appear to correlate with living in major city areas in comparison with minor city/rural areas. Surveys launched on the Internet could be a useful method in sampling data regarding psychosomatic health for this age group.

Keywords: Internet; adolescents; children; environmental risk; psychosomatic; urban living.