Persistent Tummy Aches In Childhood May Be Linked To Psychiatric Disorders In Later Life

April 17, 1998

(Why do children have chronic abdominal pain and what happens to them when they grow up? Population based cohort study)

Children who have recurrent abdominal pain tend to come from anxious families which frequently visit the doctor and their mothers are more likely to be neurotic, report Dr Matthew Hotopf et al in this week's BMJ. Such parental anxiety and preoccupations with physical health may reinforce the child's concern about physiological and minor medical conditions, such as stomach aches, as in most cases the symptoms cannot be explained medically. However, the authors found that persistent abdominal pain in childhood did not lead to abdominal problems in adulthood ("little bellyachers do not become big bellyachers") but instead seemed to be a predictor of psychiatric disorders in later life.

The report by Hotopf et al was based on the Medical Research Council national survey of health and development and followed people born in 1946 through to the age of 36 years.

Contact:

Professor Simon Wessely, Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry and Institute of Psychiatry, London s.wessely@iop.bpmf.ac.uk
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BMJ

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