Functional somatic symptoms in youths in general practice: A cross-sectional study on prevalence, clinical management and perceived burden

J Psychosom Res. 2022 May;156:110765. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2022.110765. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


Objective: Functional somatic symptoms (FSS) may progress into a functional disorder if poorly managed, which may have serious implications. This cross-sectional study describes the management of youths compared to adults in general practice and estimates the prevalence of FSS in youths in this setting by comparing consultation-related aspects between youths with FSS and 1) youths with a specific diagnosis and 2) adults with FSS.

Methods: We used data from a Danish survey (2008-2009), including 3295 face-to-face consultations between GPs and patients aged 15-64 years. Patients were divided into youths (15-24 years) and adults (25-64 years) and then into subgroups according to the GPs' classifications: 1) specific diagnosis, 2) resolving symptom and 3) FSS. Logistic regression analysis was used for all comparisons, and estimates were adjusted for gender, concomitant chronic disorder and GP cluster.

Results: The GPs more frequently ensured continuity of care in adults (AOR:0.75, 95%CI:0.61-0.92, p < 0.01) and perceived youths as less time consuming (AOR:0.58, 95%CI: 0.43-0.77, p < 0.01) and less burdensome (AOR:0.60; 95%CI: 0.45-0.81, p < 0.01) compared to adults. FSS prevalence was 4.4% in youths and 9.0% in adults. However, GPs perceived youths with FSS as more burdensome (AOR:7.77, 95%CI:2.93-20.04, p < 0.01) and more time consuming (AOR:3.98, 95%CI:1.42-11.12, p < 0.01) than youths with a specific diagnosis. No significant differences were found between youths and adults with FSS, respectively, in regards to perceived burden and consultation time.

Conclusion: The results indicate age-related variations in the prevalence and clinical management of FSS in general practice. The GPs perceived both youths and adults with FSS time consuming, which underlines a need for supportive management strategies.

Keywords: Cross-sectional studies; Functional somatic symptoms; General practice; Medically unexplained symptoms; Patient care management; Young adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice
  • General Practice*
  • Humans
  • Medically Unexplained Symptoms*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult