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The associated features of multiple somatic symptom complexes


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Abstract Objective To assess whether two or more functional somatic symptom complexes (SSCs) showed stronger association with psychosocial correlates than single or no SSC after adjustment for depression/anxiety and general medical disorders. Methods In a population-based sample we identified, by standardised questionnaire, participants with chronic widespread pain, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome, excluding those with a medical cause for pain/fatigue. We compared psychosocial variables in three groups: multiple (>1), single or no FSS, adjusting for depression/anxiety and general medical disorders using ordinal logistic regression. We evaluated whether multiple SSCs predicted health status 1 year later using multiple regression to adjust for confounders. Results Of 1443 participants (58.0% response) medical records were examined in 990: 4.4% (n = 44) had 2 or 3 symptom complexes, 16.2% a single symptom complex. Many psychosocial adversities were significantly associated with number of SSCs in the expected direction but, for many, statistical significance was lost after adjustment for depression/anxiety and medical illness. Somatic symptoms, health anxiety, impairment and number of prior doctor visits remained significantly associated. Impaired health status 1 year later was predicted by multiple somatic symptom complexes even after adjustment for depression, anxiety, medical disorders and number of symptoms. Conclusions Depression, anxiety, medical illness and health anxiety, demonstrated an exposure-response relationship with number of somatic symptom complexes. These may be core features of all Functional Somatic Syndromes and may explain why number of somatic symptom complexes predicted subsequent health status. These features merit inclusion in prospective studies to ascertain causal relationships.

Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2018
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Journal Journal of Psychosomatic Research
Print ISSN 0022-3999
Publisher Elsevier
Pages 1-8
Keywords Chronic fatigue, Epidemiology, Fibromyalgia, Functional somatic syndromes, Medically unexplained symptoms, Population based
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