Somatization and the Vocabulary of Everyday Bodily Experiences and Concerns: A Community Study of Adolescents
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OBJECTIVE: To describe the frequency of everyday bodily experiences and health concerns in a general population of adolescents 12 to 16 years of age in Ontario and to explore whether the concept of "somatization," identified from those youths with many of these symptoms, is meaningful and related to other variables. METHOD: A representative sample of the population was obtained by stratified random sampling. Children with a chronic medical condition were excluded. Parents and their adolescent children filled out a series of questionnaires to measure health concerns, complaints, and more dramatic losses of function. Information was also collected on certain background factors, psychiatric problems, and impairments in adaptive functioning. RESULTS: Parents and youths endorsed the items with the same rank order of frequency, but there was virtually no agreement between parents and youths on the presence or absence of individual somatic symptoms. Users of medical services did not tend to have many more health concerns than others, and there was a weak relationship between the number of health concerns reported by a youth and both impairment in adaptive functioning and psychiatric problems. CONCLUSION: These data suggest that the concept of somatization has limited general value over and above a relationship with other psychiatric problems.
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